Symptoms of the so-called “long covid” affect at least ten organs and systems. Learn how to identify the syndrome.
The first reports of persistent symptoms after infection by Covid-19 started about six months after the start of the pandemic. The “long covid” gained disease status shortly after, in October 2021, in a document published by the World Health Organization (WHO) that brought together studies carried out in different countries.
According to the WHO, the condition affects those with “a proven or probable history of covid-19. Symptoms appear about three months after the onset of the original infection, last for at least two months, and cannot be explained by an alternative diagnosis.”
Post-covid syndrome, as it is also known, is characterized by about 200 symptoms that involve at least ten organs and systems. Another study, this time published in the journal BMC Medicinegrouped the symptoms most reported by patients around the world according to the affected areas:
Head, eyes and ears
Hair loss, dry mouth, dental problems, hearing problems, buzzvisual disturbance, conjunctivitisdry or red eyes.
Coronary artery disease, tachycardia, palpitationsheart failure, chest pain (angina), myocardial fibrosis, changes in cardiovascular conditioning, high pressure.
liver and kidneys
Urinary incontinenceacute kidney injury, urinary tract infectionschronic liver disease, chronic kidney disease.
Fatigue, feverweakness, loss of appetite, skin rashes, reduced ability to exercise, joint pain, non-specific pain, sleep problems, malaise, sweatingback pain.
fibrosisreduced blood oxygenation capacity.
Depression, anxiety, post traumatic stressamong other disorders.
Diabetes or worsening of existing diabetes control, hyperthyroidismsubacute thyroiditis.
Nausea or vomiting, reflux, diarrhea, cold, gastritis, gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD)difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), post-infectious irritable bowel syndrome.
Difficulties concentrating and memory (brain fog), dizziness, headaches, stroke, epilepsyspeech difficulty, anosmia (loss of smell), ageusia (loss of taste), balance problems, peripheral neuropathy (weakness, numbness, and pain in the hands and feet from nerve damage), Guillain-Barré syndrome, restless legs syndrome.
Shortness of breathe, sore throatnasal congestion, sneezing, cough, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)excessive sputum, wheezing, pulmonary fibrosispleurisy, pain when breathing, respiratory arrest, asthma.
What causes long covid?
The exact mechanism behind the post-covid syndrome is not yet known. According to Pesquisa Fapesp, there are three most accepted hypotheses about the origin of the disease:
- By attaching to the ACE2 receptor, present in various organs, the virus would trigger changes inside the cell, leading to chronic disease;
- After the acute illness, the virus would be stored in reservoirs for weeks or months, causing the long covid;
- The virus and human tissues would have a similar protein, which the immune system would recognize, triggering an exacerbated autoimmune response.
How long does the long covid last?
It is known that the disease can present itself in two ways: through acute manifestations, with periods of well-marked symptoms, interspersed with asymptomatic periods; or chronically, with stable symptoms since the end of the initial Covid-19 infection.
Data already show that the condition usually remains for up to 3 months, and can reach 12 months in rarer cases. The fact is that research on post-covid syndrome is still under development, and information is constantly being updated.
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Who is most vulnerable to developing the disease?
According to WHO data, 10% to 20% of those who were infected with Sars-CoV-2 developed more persistent symptoms, which can be classified as long-term covid.
The surprise was to realize that people who had more serious cases of covid-19 are not the only ones who can develop long covid. Those who have had mild symptoms or have been asymptomatic may also have the condition. In general, women, middle-aged people (between 45 and 70 years old) and those who had more symptoms of covid in the first week of infection are more vulnerable to developing the condition.
Unlike covid-19 itself, there is no single test or exam that diagnoses long covid. The diagnosis is clinical, made by a healthcare professional according to the patient’s report and the exclusion of other symptom-related conditions. Thus, the tests performed are intended to exclude other diseases.
There is still no specific treatment for long covid, but it is possible to reduce and control the impact of symptoms on everyday life.
If you identified with the symptoms, talk to your doctor about it to better understand what is happening and receive the necessary treatment.
See also: Post-Covid Mortality