Long Covid (persistent symptoms after Covid infection) sufferers endure a wider set of symptoms than previously thought and these have a significant effect on their daily activities, quality of life, and capacity to work, according to a new study.
The symptoms most associated with Covid infection included anosmia, shortness of breath, chest pain and fever, but also included a range of other symptoms that have previously not been widely reported such as hair loss and sexual dysfunction, as per a study published in Nature Medicine.
Long covid has been associated with a broad range of symptoms and health impacts. A study showed that symptoms of long COVID, although commonly observed among patients with other viral infections such as influenza, occur more frequently following infection with Covid. Several systematic reviews have shown the most prevalent symptoms to be fatigue, shortness of breath, muscle pain, joint pain, headache, cough, chest pain, altered smell, altered taste and diarrhoea; however, previous studies were often based on self-reported symptoms or lacked a control group, making it difficult to make inferences about whether the reported symptoms were due to Covid 19 infection, pre-existing comorbidities or societal effects related to the pandemic.
Furthermore, many previous studies were conducted in hospitalized cohorts and population-level data on the potential breadth of symptoms experienced by non-hospitalized individuals with SARS-CoV-2 infection are scarce. Large-scale studies leveraging routinely available healthcare data with closely matched control populations are needed to elucidate which symptoms are independently associated with the long-term effects of COVID-19.
Smokers and former smokers were at increased risk of reporting long COVID symptoms, compared to those who had never smoked. Baseline BMI in the overweight or obese range was also associated with an increased risk of persistent symptoms.
Females, ethnic minority groups, increasing socioeconomic deprivation, smoking and former smoking, high BMI and a wide range of comorbidities were all associated with an increased risk of reporting symptoms >=12 weeks after infection. The risk of reporting symptoms was also found to be increased along a gradient of decreasing age.
The COVID Symptom Study also found that long COVID was associated with increasing BMI and female sex, which is in keeping with our findings; however, the study also found that the risk of reporting long COVID symptoms increased with age, whereas our study observed the opposite trend after adjustment for a comprehensive range of potential confounders. Although the COVID Symptom Study is community-based, it includes individuals with a history of hospitalized and non-hospitalized COVID-19.