A new study has revealed that six out of ten people who suffer from COVID-19 still have at least one symptom a year later. The researchers determined that Covid symptoms which linger for 15 weeks are likely to persist for at least a year. The most common lingering symptoms are shortness of breath, irritability, and fatigue.
The experts report that up to 40 percent of COVID-19 patients develop “long Covid,” which is characterized by persistent symptoms that can affect multiple organs and include mental health problems.
To investigate the prevalence of long Covid, Aurelie Fischer and colleagues at the Luxembourg Institute of Health surveyed nearly 300 people for a year after they were diagnosed. The study participants reported on whether they were experiencing 64 common symptoms of long Covid. The individuals also answered questions about how these symptoms affected their quality of life.
An analysis of the data revealed that nearly 60 percent of the participants had at least one long Covid symptom a year after their initial infection. More than half of these individuals suffered from ongoing sleep problems, while one-third were still experiencing fatigue.
Patients who had moderate to severe COVID-19 were twice as likely to still have at least one symptom a year later compared to asymptomatic patents.
“We observed a gradient between COVID-19 severity at inclusion and frequency of long Covid at one year,” said Fischer. “Participants with a mild form of the acute illness were more likely than those who’d been asymptomatic to have at least one symptom at one year, and to have sleep problems, but to a lesser extent than those with a moderate or severe acute illness.”
Overall, one in seven participants said they could not imagine coping with their symptoms long-term. The researchers also found that some groups of symptoms tend to occur together, which indicates that there are multiple different types of long Covid.
“Our study offers a detailed description of symptoms persisting one year after Covid-19, according to the initial disease severity,” said Fischer.
“It shows that long Covid can still have a large impact on quality of life, even a year after the acute infection. In general, the more severe the acute illness is, the more likely someone is to have ongoing symptoms; however, those with an asymptomatic or mild initial infection may also experience a deterioration in their quality of life.”
“We also highlighted that long Covid likely consists of multiple sub-categories, distinguished by particular combinations of symptoms. Finally, this work will help raise awareness of the needs of people with long Covid and contribute to the development of health strategies to help them.”
The research will be presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases (ECCMID) in Lisbon, Portugal.