Long-term effects of coronavirus include over 200 symptoms: Study
For some people, coronavirus can cause symptoms that last weeks or months after the infection has healed. This is sometimes called post-COVID-19 syndrome or "long Covid".
The largest ever international study of people with long Covid has identified more than 200 symptoms.
The study found the myriad symptoms of long Covid – from brain fog and hallucinations to tremors and tinnitus – spanned 10 of the body’s organ systems, and a third of the symptoms continued to affect patients for at least six months.
The study, published in the Lancet’s journal EClinicalMedicine, surveyed 3,762 people with confirmed or suspected long Covid from 56 countries. It identified 203 symptoms, of which 66 were tracked for seven months.
The most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (where people’s health worsens after physical or mental exertion) and brain fog. Other effects included visual hallucinations, tremors, itchy skin, changes to the menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhea and tinnitus.
Athena Akrami, a neuroscientist at University College London, and senior author of the study, said he was still experiencing symptoms 16 months after becoming infected with coronavirus.
“There are likely to be tens of thousands of long Covid patients suffering in silence, unsure that their symptoms are connected to Covid-19,” she said.
“A lot of post-Covid clinics in the UK have focused on respiratory rehabilitation. It’s true that a lot of people have shortness of breath, but they also have a lot of other problems and types of symptoms that the clinics need to provide a more holistic approach to.”
Respondents with symptoms lasting longer than six months, a total of 2,454, said they experienced an average of 13.8 symptoms during the seventh month.
About 22% of the people who participated in the survey reported not being able to work – being fired, taking prolonged sick or disability leave, or quitting – due to their illness. And 45% required a reduced work schedule.