Long COVID could be even worse on the body than previously thought.
Well-known symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, fogginess and for some, the long-term loss of smell and taste.
However, a new study has found that there is a broader range of symptoms, including hair loss, loss of libido, incontinence and erectile dysfunction in men — and some people are more susceptible than others.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham analyzed the health records of around 2.4 million people in the UK, finding that those who had been infected with COVID-19 reported 63 symptoms more frequently 12 weeks after they were infected compared to those who hadn’t been infected.
Researchers of the study — published in Nature Medicine — broke the most common symptoms into three categories: respiratory symptoms, mental health and cognitive problems. Other common symptoms include loss of smell, shortness of breath, chest pain and fever, nausea and vomiting, fever, bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, anhedonia (lack of enjoyment) and limb swelling.
The study suggests that particular groups of people are more likely to develop long COVID, namely females, younger people and those belonging to a black, mixed or another ethnic group.
Researchers also reported people from low socioeconomic backgrounds, smokers and people who are overweight, obese or have a wide range of health conditions were associated with persistent COVID symptoms, also finding biological sex and ethnicity also appear to play a role.
Dr. Shamil Haroon, associate clinical professor in public health at the University of Birmingham and senior author of the study, said the “research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policymakers throughout the pandemic.”
“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,” Haroon added.
“The symptoms we identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers to improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects from COVID-19, and to subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed.”