More than one third of COVID-19 patients suffer from ‘long-COVID’

Credit: CC0 Public Domain

In a new study from the University of Oxford, researchers found 37% of people had at least one long-COVID symptom diagnosed in the 3–6 month period after COVID-19 infection.

The most common symptoms were breathing problems, abdominal symptoms, fatigue, pain and anxiety/depression.

In the study, the team examined long-COVID in over 270,000 people recovering from COVID-19 infection.

They reported on how commonly nine core long-COVID symptoms were diagnosed, and how this rate compared to people recovering from influenza.

The nine core long-COVID symptoms, occurring 90–180 days after COVID-19 was diagnosed, comprise:

  • Abnormal breathing—8%
  • Abdominal symptoms—8%
  • Anxiety/depression—15%
  • Chest/throat pain—6%
  • Cognitive problems (‘brain fog’) – 4%
  • Fatigue—6%
  • Headache—5%
  • Myalgia (muscle pain) – 1.5%
  • Other pain—7%
  • Any of the above features—37%

Higher rates were seen if the whole 1–180 day period after COVID-19 infection was included.

The severity of infection, age, and sex affected the likelihood of long-COVID symptoms: long-COVID symptoms were more frequent in those who had been hospitalized, and they were slightly more common in women.

These factors also influenced which of the symptoms people were most likely to experience.

For example, older people and men had more breathing difficulties and cognitive problems, whereas young people and women had more headaches, abdominal symptoms and anxiety/depression.

Many patients had more than one long-COVID symptom, and symptoms tended to co-occur more as time progressed.

The study also looked at the same symptoms in people recovering from influenza. Long-COVID symptoms did occur after influenza, but were 1.5 times more common after COVID-19.

The results confirm that a significant proportion of people, of all ages, can be affected by a range of symptoms and difficulties in the six months after COVID-19 infection.

One researcher of the study is Dr. Max Taquet.

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