Long Covid sufferers have experienced a wider set of symptoms than previously thought including hair loss and sexual dysfunction, new research has found.
A study published in Nature Medicine today (25 July 2022) 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.
Anonymised electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK were analysed by researchers from the University of Birmingham alongside a team of clinicians and researchers across England, and was funded by the National Institute for Health and Care Research and UK Research and Innovation. The data taken between January 2020 and April 2021 comprised of 486,149 people with prior infection, and 1.9 million people with no indication of coronavirus infection after matching for other clinical diagnoses.
Using only non-hospitalised patients, the team of researchers 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:
- apraxia (inability to perform familiar movements or commands),
- bowel incontinence,
- erectile dysfunction,
- limb swelling
Dr Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor in Public Health at the University of Birmingham is the senior author on the study. Dr Haroon said:
“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.”
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