LONG COVID: THE LONG-TERM EFFECTS OF COVID-19
Long COVID: The long-term health effects of Coronavirus
Recently, we have seen more accounts of “long” COVID hitting the news, with those suffering reporting ongoing symptoms with little improvement. Most people who have coronavirus recover completely within a few weeks. Moreover, they can get back to normality with little or no difficulty. However, recent research by the app based COVID symptom study, found nearly 60,000 people in the UK may be suffering from long COVID and are still showing symptoms three months after their original positive test.
Unfortunately, only a small body of literature has emerged since the beginning of the pandemic on the long term effects of coronavirus. Nevertheless, what we do know from recent studies is long COVID is having a profound impact on the lives of ordinary people, no matter their age or underlying health.
What is Long COVID?
Long COVID is the colloquial word to describe the long-term health effects of coronavirus. It describes the long-lasting symptoms patients are experiencing weeks and months after they have initially experienced the symptoms of coronavirus. The World Health Organisation has stated 2-6 weeks is enough time to recover from COVID-19 in most cases. However, they recognise that this is not always the case and that there can be long term effects. With some symptoms recurring for weeks or months following initial recovery. Though, people are not infectious to others during this time.
What are the symptoms of Long COVID?
There is no list of symptoms shared by all patients with long COVID. Two patients can have two very different experiences. According to Public Health England, the long-term health effects of COVID-19 can include:
- Respiratory symptoms and conditions such as chronic cough, shortness of breath, lung inflammation and fibrosis, and pulmonary vascular disease
- Cardiovascular symptoms and disease such as chest tightness, acute myocarditis and heart failure
- Protracted loss or change of smell and taste
- Mental health problems including depression, anxiety and cognitive difficulties
- Inflammatory disorders such as myalgia, multisystem inflammatory syndrome, Guillain-Barre syndrome, or neuralgic amyotrophy
- Gastrointestinal disturbance with diarrhoea
- Continuing headaches
- Fatigue, weakness and sleeplessness
- Liver and kidney dysfunction
- Clotting disorders and thrombosis
- Skin rashes
What do we know about Long COVID?
To put simply, not much. However, recent studies and the increased number of patients experiencing long COVID means have a greater understanding of who is affected and how long these symptoms are lasting.
A recent study found nearly three quarters of coronavirus patients admitted to hospital suffer ongoing symptoms three months later. Out of the 110 patients treated at Southmead Hospital in Bristol; 81 were experiencing symptoms when they returned for their follow up appointment.
These findings are not exclusive to the UK as similar discoveries are being made worldwide. A study of 143 people in Rome's biggest hospital showed 87% of patients with at least one symptom of long COVID two months later.
A poll from the Netherlands found more than nine in ten people reported having problems with simple daily activities, three months after experiencing symptoms. Out of the people surveyed, 91% hadn’t been hospitalised.
What should I do if I think I have Long COVID?
The NHS has introduced “Your COVID Recovery Plan”, which has advice for patients suffering from long-term effects of coronavirus, particularly those finding normal activities more difficult than usual. The recovery plan also advises that patients should contact their hospital or GP if they are not making a full recovery.
At London Doctors Clinic, we offer a range of COVID-19 services including home PCR tests, clinic tests for asymptomatic patients and antibody tests. If you are currently experiencing any long COVID symptoms, our GP’s are also available consultations and advice on your particular symptom/s.
Medically reviewed by Dr Nagete Boukhezra, GP at London Doctors Clinic
Reviewed: October 2020