People with Long COVID have higher risk of serious illnesses: Study
People with Long COVID had an increased risk of dying and developing serious health problems compared to people who never had COVID-19, according to a new study.
Long COVID is an umbrella term for health issues that emerge during or after a case of COVID-19 and last weeks, months, or longer.
Some symptoms—like fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and chronic pain—affect patients’ daily lives, while others—like organ damage—linger beneath the surface, potentially causing serious illness later on. The new study looks at the latter.
The researchers drew from a database that includes health-record data for millions of people in the U.S. covered by 14 commercial insurance plans. Using those records, they examined a group of about 13,500 U.S. adults who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from April to July 2020 and went on to develop Long COVID.
In the year after their COVID-19 diagnoses, people with Long COVID were significantly more likely to seek care for health problems including irregular heartbeats, blood clots, strokes, heart disease, heart failure, and respiratory disease, compared to the control group.
Irregular heartbeats and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) were the most commonly treated conditions among people with Long COVID, with about 30% of the group seeking care for each. Only 12.5% and 16.5% of controls, meanwhile, sought care for irregular heartbeats and COPD, respectively.
People who were hospitalized with COVID-19 when they first got sick were especially likely to later have health problems. Among that group, more than half got treatment for irregular heartbeats, more than 40% got treatment for COPD, and almost 30% got treatment for heart disease.
More people with Long COVID also died during the follow-up period: almost 3% of the people with Long COVID died in the year after their initial COVID-19 cases, compared to just over 1% of the people who hadn’t been diagnosed with COVID-19.
The study adds more support to an increasingly solid conclusion: COVID-19 leaves its mark on the body in myriad ways, some of which last far longer—and are more serious—than a few days of flu-like symptoms.