Scientists find 17 health problems linked to long COVID

Credit: Usman Yousaf/ Unsplash

Most people who get COVID-19 recover within a few weeks.

But some people—even those who had mild versions of the disease—have symptoms that last weeks or months after initial COVID infection.

These ongoing health problems are called post-COVID conditions (PCC), post-COVID-19 syndrome, long COVID-19, and post-acute sequelae of SARS-COV-2 infection (PASC).

In a study from Kaiser Permanente and elsewhere, scientists found 17 conditions associated with long COVID to better diagnose and treat the condition.

The research looked at medical records of over 100,000 Kaiser Permanente Mid-Atlantic States’ adult patients—over 30,000 who tested positive for COVID-19 and over 70,000 who tested negative for COVID-19—in 2020.

The 17 conditions identified were:

  • Other lower respiratory disease
  • Diabetes
  • Gastrointestinal disease
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Abdominal pain
  • Nonspecific chest pain
  • Mental health disorders
  • Anxiety disorders
  • Genitourinary symptoms
  • Fatigue and malaise
  • Cardiac dysrhythmias
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Respiratory failure
  • Anosmia (loss of smell)
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fluid and electrolyte disorders
  • Nutritional, endocrine and metabolic disorders

The team was most interested in conditions that developed within 30 days of a positive COVID-19 test and persisted for nearly four months post-test date, and conditions that developed in the 30-to-120-day period after a positive test.

Key conditions included loss of smell, cardiac dysrhythmia, diabetes, genitourinary disorders, fatigue and chest pain.

Overall, the team found that 16.5 % of COVID-positive patients within the study developed at least one long COVID-related condition within 120 days of a positive test.

This finding is lower than national averages, which shows that nearly 20% of American adults who’ve had COVID-19 report having long COVID symptoms after the acute infection period.

The researchers found that some patients may have developed diabetes after a COVID-19 infection.

The next phase of research will look at data from 2021 through 2022 and take a deeper dive into the relationship between diabetes and COVID-19, the effects of delta and omicron variants, the impact of vaccines and boosters, and the influence of widespread at-home testing.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about why smokers have a lower risk of COVID-19, and flu and COVID-19 vaccines may increase heart disease risk.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about a universal antibody therapy to fight all COVID-19 variants, and results showing this fasting method linked to less severe COVID-19.

The study was conducted by Michael Horberg et al and published in Nature Communications.

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