Long Covid Has Over 200 Symptoms And Leaves 1 In 5 Unable To Work, Study Finds

There are more than 200 symptoms associated with long Covid spanning 10 organ systems—including memory loss, hallucinations, tremors and fatigue—according to a new study published Thursday, providing one of the most comprehensive insights yet into the lingering and debilitating illness that can affect patients for months or years after infection.

Covid long haulers reported a total of 203 different symptoms in the seven months between Dec. 2019 and May 2020, ranging from rashes, peeling skin and digestive issues to muscle spasms, hearing loss and tinnitus, according to research published in the Lancet’s E Clinical Medicine journal.

The study, based on surveys from nearly 4,000 people from 56 countries, identified fatigue, brain fog and post-exertional malaise (where symptoms worsen after physical or mental effort) as the most common symptoms.

On average, patients suffered from 56 different symptoms and those still suffering after six months—nearly two-thirds of participants taking the survey—were still experiencing an average of 14 symptoms.

Almost half (45%) of the study’s participants reported needing a reduced work schedule on account of their illness and around one-fifth (22%) were unable to work at all.

Dr. Athena Akrami, a neuroscientist at University College London and senior author of the study, said it highlights “a clear need to widen medical guidelines” to assess a wider range of symptoms than respiratory and cardiovascular issues for long Covid.”

The findings reinforce the understanding that Covid-19 is far more than a respiratory illness and has an effect on the entire body. It also highlights that some symptoms may only emerge after months or weeks of the initial infection. Severity of the initial infection does not appear to be strongly linked to the chances of getting long Covid, making children and young people—along with the unvaccinated—especially vulnerable. Given that the majority of early research only covered hospitalized patients and the continued lack of consistent diagnostic criteria, it’s not yet known how common long Covid might be. Studies suggest around 10% to 30% of Covid-19 patients may go on to become these “long haulers,” though this figure is likely to change as more research is conducted.

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