According to new research, those who have Long Covid have had a larger range of symptoms than previously assumed. Sexual dysfunction and hair loss are some of these symptoms.
According to a recent study, patients having a primary care record of infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, which produces Covid-19, reported 62 symptoms substantially more frequently than those without such a record did 12 weeks after initial infection. On July 25, 2022, the study was released in the journal Nature Medicine.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham and a group of doctors and researchers from across England examined anonymized electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK. The National Institute for Health and Care Research and UK Research and Innovation provided funding for the study. The data taken between January 2020 and April 2021 comprised 486,149 people with prior infection, and 1.9 million people with no indication of coronavirus infection after matching for other clinical diagnoses.
The research team was able to pinpoint three separate categories of symptoms that participants with ongoing health issues following infection reported using just non-hospitalized patients.
Respiratory problems, cognitive and mental health disorders, and later a wider range of symptoms were common categories for symptom patterns. While anosmia (loss of smell), chest pain, shortness of breath, and fever are among the most prevalent symptoms, other frequently reported symptoms include:
- nausea and vomiting,
- erectile dysfunction,
- bowel incontinence,
- anhedonia (lack of enjoyment),
- limb swelling
Senior author of the study is Dr. Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham. “This research confirms what patients have been telling clinicians and policymakers throughout the epidemic, that the symptoms of Long Covid are exceedingly broad and cannot fully be accounted for by other factors like as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health issues,” stated Dr. Haroon.
The symptoms we found “could aid clinicians and clinical guideline developers in improving the assessment of patients with long-term Covid-19 effects, and to afterwards explore how this symptom load might be effectively treated.” Jennifer Camaradou, the study’s patient partner and co-author, said:
“This study is instrumental in creating and adding further value to understanding the complexity and pathology of long COVID. 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.”
People at increased risk
The researchers not only discovered a broader range of symptoms, but also significant demographic groups and behaviours that place people at a higher risk of acquiring Long Covid.
According to the study, those who are female, younger, and who identify as black, mixed, or belonging to another ethnic group had a higher risk of getting Long Covid. Furthermore, those with poor socioeconomic status, those who are overweight or obese, smokers, and those who had a variety of medical issues were more likely to have chronic symptoms.
Lead author of the study and Research Fellow at the University of Birmingham’s Institute of Applied Health Research, Anuradhaa Subramanian, stated:
“Our data analyses of risk factors are of particular interest because it helps us to consider what could potentially be causing or contributing to Long Covid. We already know that certain modifiable traits such as smoking and obesity put people at increased risk of various diseases and conditions, including Long Covid. However, others such as biological sex and ethnicity also appear to be important.
For instance, autoimmune illnesses are more common among women. We are more interested in determining whether autoimmunity or other reasons may account for the elevated risk in women after seeing the increased likelihood of Long Covid in our study. These findings will aid in further focusing research on potential causes of these post-infection chronic symptoms as well as ways to assist patients who are experiencing them.
The research team was able to identify post-SARS-CoV-2 infections at a particular stage of the worldwide pandemic thanks to patient records for 2.3 million patients. The study focuses on the first phase of the pandemic in the UK between January 2020 and April 2021 and provided the scientists with an opportunity to compare significant numbers of people who had coronavirus infections alongside a control group of uninfected people.
To reliably capture persistent symptoms observed after infection, a multidisciplinary team of epidemiologists, clinicians, data scientists, statisticians, and patients decoded electronic health records.
Dr. Shamil Haroon said:
“The results are a testament to the opportunities that these public health datasets provide, as well as to the power of collaborative work to provide much-needed evidence around the experiences of many people who have been affected by persistent symptoms after coronavirus infection,” said the study’s lead author. The voices of patients and involvement groups will hopefully be further validated as a result of our research, and a strategy to enhance healthcare responses to new and developing diseases will be provided.
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