There’s still very little known about long Covid, and scientists are racing to establish a clearer diagnostic criteria for the chronic condition.
But it’s clear that the range of symptoms you can have after being infected with Coronavirus are extremely varied and not as clear-cut as first assumed. In fact, the largest ever international study of people with long Covid found more than 200 symptoms, resulting in researchers calling for a national screening programme to help better understand the illness.
The study, led by researchers at University College London, polled 3,762 people with confirmed or suspected long Covid from 56 countries, and identified 203 symptoms of which 66 were tracked for seven months.
The most common symptoms were:
- post-exertional malaise (worsening of symptoms following physical or mental activity)
- cognitive dysfunction (or brain fog)
Other symptoms included hallucinations, tremors, headaches, itchy skin, period changes, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhoea and tinnitus.
“While there has been a lot of public discussion around long COVID, there are few systematic studies investigating this population; hence relatively little is known about its range of symptoms, and their progression over time, the severity, and expected clinical course (longevity), its impact on daily functioning, and expected return to baseline health,” says senior author Athena Akrami.
“There are likely to be tens of thousands of long Covid patients suffering in silence, unsure that their symptoms are connected to COVID-19,” Athena added. “Building on the network of long Covid clinics, which take GP referrals, we now believe a national programme could be rolled out into communities able to screen, diagnose and treat all those suspected of have long Covid symptoms.”
There are limitations to the study, as noted by UCL, including its retrospective nature which increases the possibility of recall bias, and that the demographics were strongly skewed towards English-speaking (91.9%), white (85.3%) respondents.
According to the NHS, common long COVID symptoms include:
- extreme tiredness (fatigue)
- shortness of breath
- chest pain or tightness
- problems with memory and concentration (“brain fog”)
- difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
- heart palpitations
- pins and needles
- joint pain
- depression and anxiety
- tinnitus, earaches
- feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
- a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
For more information or advice, speak to your GP or visit Your Covid Recovery.