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Study adds to list of long Covid symptoms

Long Covid sufferers have experienced a wider set of symptoms than previously thought including hair loss and sexual dysfunction, new research has found.

A study published in Nature Medicine found that patients with a primary care record of infection with the virus that causes Covid-19 (SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus) reported 62 symptoms much more frequently 12 weeks after initial infection. This is compared to patients who hadn’t contracted the virus.

The anonymised electronic health records of 2.4m people in the UK were analysed by researchers from the University of Birmingham alongside a team of clinicians and researchers across England.

Using only non-hospitalised patients, the researchers were able to identify three categories of distinct symptoms reported by people with persistent health problems after infection – respiratory symptoms, mental health and cognitive problems, and a broader range of symptoms.

While the most common symptoms include anosmia (loss of sense of smell), shortness of breath, chest pain and fever, others included amnesia, apraxia (inability to perform familiar movements or commands), bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations and limb swelling.

Lead author Anuradhaa Subramanian, Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham, said: “Our data analyses of risk factors are of particular interest because it helps us to consider what could potentially be causing or contributing to long Covid.

“We already know that certain modifiable traits such as smoking and obesity put people at increased risk of various diseases and conditions, including long Covid. However, others such as biological sex and ethnicity also appear to be important. For example, women are more likely to experience autoimmune diseases.

“Seeing the increased likelihood of women having long Covid in our study increases our interest in investigating whether autoimmunity or other causes may explain the increased risk in women.

“These observations will help to further narrow the focus on factors to investigate what may be causing these persistent symptoms after an infection, and how we can help patients who are experiencing them.”

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