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15th Jul 2021

Long Covid has more than 200 symptoms, according to study

Charlie Herbert

The symptoms range from brain fog to tinnitus

The world’s largest ever international study of people suffering from long Covid has found that there are more than 200 symptoms. The findings have prompted researchers to call for a national screening programme.

The symptoms found include brain fog, hallucinations, tremors and tinnitus and span 10 of the body’s organ systems. A third of the symptoms identified continued to affect patients for at least six months after infection.

Researchers argue that a screening programme across the UK would help produce a better understanding of how many people are affected by long Covid and the kind of support and treatment they would need.

They have also called for clinical guidelines for assessing patients with suspected long Covid to be widened beyond just cardiovascular and lung-function tests.

One of the senior authors of the study, Athena Akrami, said that there are likely to be “tens of thousands of long Covid patients suffering in silence.”

The neuroscientist at University College London told the Guardian: “A lot of post-Covid clinics in the UK have focused on respiratory rehabilitation. It’s true that a lot of people have shortness of breath, but they also have a lot of other problems and types of symptoms that the clinics need to provide a more holistic approach to.

“There are likely to be tens of thousands of long Covid patients suffering in silence, unsure that their symptoms are connected to Covid-19.

“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 having long Covid symptoms.”

Akrami herself said that she was still suffering from some symptoms 16 months after catching Covid.

The study was published in the Lancet’s journal EClinicalMedicine and surveyed 3,762 people with confirmed or suspected long Covid from 56 countries. In total, the research identified 203 symptoms. Of these, 66 were tracked for seven months.

The most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (where people’s health worsens after physical or mental exertion) and brain fog. Other effects included visual hallucinations, tremors, itchy skin, changes to the menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhoea and tinnitus.

A total of 2,454 participants in the survey were still experiencing symptoms six months after infection. On average these people experienced almost 14 symptoms during the seventh month.

This research comes as experts warn the lifting of all remaining social distancing restriction on July 19 will lead to a surge in long Covid cases.