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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, found two million people in the UK may have had long Covid.

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 the NHS,  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 diseases 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
  • Lymphadenopathy
  • Skin rashes

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What do we know about Long Covid?

To put it simply, not much. However, recent studies highlight that over a third of people who have had Covid reported symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks. This increased number of patients experiencing long Covid means we have a greater understanding of who is affected and how long these symptoms are lasting.

Another study found nearly three quarters of coronavirus patients admitted to the 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 test for long Covid at all our private GP clinics (excluding Manchester and Birmingham). This long Covid test allows you to explore the impact of Covid on your physical and mental health with one of our experienced GPs. Our long Covid test includes: 

  • A 45 min appointment with an expert GP
  • A comprehensive review of how Covid has impacted you
  • Medical history
  • Lifestyle and mental health review
  • Physical examination
  • Blood pressure and oxygen saturation check
  • ECG
  • A comprehensive panel of blood tests to check on vital organs such as liver and kidneys
  • Covid Antibody test
  • Chest x-ray

 

Additional tests which may be necessary:

  • D-Dimer blood test
  • Troponin blood test

 

We also offer a range of COVID-19 services including home PCR tests, Covid testing for international travel and antibody tests. If you are currently experiencing any long Covid, our GP’s are also available for consultations and advice on your particular symptom/s.

 

Medically reviewed by Dr Nagete Boukhezra, GP at London Doctors Clinic

Reviewed: July 2021

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