Scientists find new symptoms of long COVID

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In a study from the University of Birmingham, scientists found long COVID sufferers have experienced a wider set of symptoms than previously thought including hair loss and sexual dysfunction.

They found that patients with a primary care record of infection with the virus that causes COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus) reported 62 symptoms much more frequently 12 weeks after initial infection than those who hadn’t contracted the virus.

In the study, the team analyzed the electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK.

They were able to identify three categories of distinct symptoms reported by people with persistent health problems after infection.

Patterns of symptoms tended to be grouped into respiratory symptoms, mental health and cognitive problems, and then a broader range of symptoms.

While the most common symptoms include anosmia (loss of sense of smell), shortness of breath, chest pain and fever; others include: amnesia, apraxia (inability to perform familiar movements or commands), bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, and limb swelling.

This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policymakers throughout the pandemic, that the symptoms of Long COVID are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions.

The team says the symptoms they identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers to improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects from COVID-19, and to subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed.

It highlights the degree and diversity of expression of symptoms between different clusters. Patients with pre-existing health conditions will also welcome the additional analysis on risk factors.

As well as identifying a wider set of symptoms, the research team also found key demographic groups and behaviors which put people at increased risk of developing Long COVID.

The study suggests that females, younger people; or belonging to a black, mixed or other ethnic group are at greater risk of developing Long COVID.

In addition, people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, smokers, people who are overweight or obese, as well as the presence of a wide range of health conditions were linked to reporting persistent symptoms.

If you care about COVID, please read studies about the biggest risk factors for COVID-19 death, and new antiviral drug may block COVID-19 transmission.

For more information about COVID, please see recent studies about new face mask to deactivate COVID-19, and results showing antibodies that block all the COVID-19 variants.

The study was conducted by Dr. Shamil Haroon et al and published in Nature Medicine.

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