London - Long Covid sufferers experience a wider set of symptoms than previously thought.
Covid-19 survivors are also likely to suffer from hair loss and sexual dysfunction, new research has found.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham, in the UK, identified three categories of distinct long Covid symptoms – 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 (loss of memories), apraxia (inability to perform familiar movements or commands), bowel incontinence, hair loss, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations and limb swelling.
The study, published in Nature Medicine, found that patients with a primary care record of infection with the Covid virus reported 62 symptoms much more frequently 12 weeks after initial infection than those who hadn’t contracted the virus.
“This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policy makers 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,” said Dr Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor in Public Health at the varsity.
The team analysed anonymised electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK between January 2020 and April 2021.
It comprised 486 149 people with infection and 1.9 million people with no indication of coronavirus infection after matching for other clinical diagnoses.
In addition, the team also found key demographic groups and behaviours 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.
People from low socio-economic backgrounds, smokers, people who are overweight or obese, as well as the presence of a wide range of health conditions also reported persistent symptoms.
“Women are for example more likely to experience autoimmune diseases. Seeing the increased likelihood of women having long Covid in our study increases our interest in investigating whether autoimmunity or other causes may explain the increased risk in women,” said lead author Anuradhaa Subramanian, research fellow at the university’s Institute of Applied Health Research.
These observations will help to further narrow the focus on factors to investigate that may be causing these persistent symptoms after an infection, and how we can help patients who are experiencing them, the team said.