In 10 organ systems systems, global survey participants record 205 post-infection symptoms
A large-scale study of confirmed and suspected patients has found many individuals suffering from ‘long covid’ are still not completely functional six months after infection.
Although Covid-19 was initially thought to be mainly a respiratory disease from which most individuals would recover within two or three weeks, as the pandemic progressed, for months afterwards, more and more individuals reported experiencing symptoms.
There is no real reason and no standardized care plan for these long-term sufferers – with symptoms affecting organs from the heart to the brain – for their long-term illness. There is no consensus on Long Covid’s scale and effect, but new knowledge is worrying.
In one of the largest peer-reviewed studies to date, 3,762 individuals aged 18 to over 80 from 56 countries were surveyed by Patient Led Study for Covid-19 (a group of long covid patients who are also researchers), who replied to 257 different questions in nine different languages.
There were two hundred and five symptoms reported across 10 organ systems, with 66 symptoms recorded across seven months. On average, symptoms from nine organ systems were encountered by respondents.
This is a chapter that has not yet been published in the medical textbooks, and no major study has been published. Part of the development here is simply to input large numbers and figures into the current anecdotal sense of what has happened, while aspects feel fairly new. Until we are better able to describe what is happening, no one can address the disease,”This is a chapter that is not yet in the medical textbooks, and little major research has been published. Part of the progress here is simply inputting big numbers and statistics to the existing anecdotal sense of what has happened, while aspects really feel fairly new. No one can address the disease until we are better able to describe what is happening,”
The study was limited to respondents with a disease lasting more than 28 days and with an onset of symptoms prior to June 2020, which allowed symptoms to be investigated over an average span of six months.
For at least six months, about 65 percent of respondents (2,454) reported having symptoms. Fatigue, post-exertional malaise, cognitive dysfunction (‘brain fog’), sensory sensations, headaches, memory issues, insomnia, muscle pain, palpitations, shortness of breath, dizziness/imbalance, and problems with speech and language were the symptoms most likely to continue after six months.
Flare-ups were experienced by almost 86 percent of respondents, most often induced by physical activity, tension, exercise, and mental activity.
Other, less common symptoms are important targets for further study, such as new allergies, facial paralysis, epilepsy, vision or hearing issues, Altmann said.
The most prominent and recurrent neurological symptoms were memory and cognitive dysfunction, experienced by more than 85 per cent of respondents. They were equally prevalent in all age groups and had a major influence on the willingness of respondents to work, the authors said.
Compared to before they became sick, forty-five percent of respondents reported needing a reduced work schedule, while about 22 percent were not working because of their health conditions at the time of the study.
The findings must be viewed with caution, however. English-speaking, white, and of higher socioeconomic status were the majority of respondents.
At least one pre-existing disorder, such as allergies, migraines, and asthma, was reported by most participants. A confirmed Covid 19 infection was also present in less than one-third of the survey participants.
In terms of… those with confirmed infection and those without, there may be discrepancies,”There may be differences in terms of … those with confirmed infection and those without,”
According to Nisreen Alwan, an associate professor of public health at the University of Southampton, respondents were recruited from support groups, so the results are not generally representative of the general population or of individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who are at higher risk of developing covid.
“People who recover from prolonged covid are less likely to complete the survey, which limits the comparison between those who fully recover and those who don’t.”
The continuing neurological complications that can arise in hospitalized patients with Covid have led to calls for doctors to follow patients for months after discharge.