Sixty percent of COVID-19 patients still had at least one long COVID symptom a year after their initial infection, and the most common symptoms were fatigue, shortness of breath and irritability, a new study found. Photo by geralt/Pixabay
If you’ve had COVID-19, there’s a good chance that at least one symptom will still be haunting you a year later, new research suggests.
The researchers found that six in 10 people who’ve had COVID-19 still have at least one symptom after one year, and symptoms that don’t resolve after 15 weeks are likely to last at least a year.
The study “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,” said study author Aurelie Fischer, from the Luxembourg Institute of Health in Strassen.
“We also highlighted that long COVID likely consists of multiple sub-categories, distinguished by particular combinations of symptoms,” she added.
Previous data suggests that 25% to 40% of COVID-19 patients develop persistent symptoms, but that rate is based in large part on hospitalized patients.
To get a better idea of how prevalent long COVID has been in the general population, Fischer’s team surveyed 289 people a year after they were diagnosed with COVID-19.
The participants were an average age of 40 and half were women. They were divided into three groups based on the severity of their COVID-19 (asymptomatic mild and moderate/severe) and asked if they had any of 64 common long COVID symptoms.
Sixty percent still had at least one long COVID symptom a year after their initial infection, and the most common symptoms were fatigue (34%), shortness of breath and irritability.
Nearly 13% said respiratory symptoms were affecting their quality of life and 54% had ongoing sleep problems.
Those who’d had moderate/severe COVID-19 were twice as likely to still have at least one symptom a year later than those who had been asymptomatic, the findings showed.
Moderate/severe COVID-19 was also associated with more sleep problems after a year than asymptomatic infection (64% versus 39%).
Compared to those who were asymptomatic, those who had mild COVID-19 were more likely to have at least one symptom a year later and to have sleep problems.
One in seven participants said they could not picture coping with their symptoms long-term, and the researchers also found that some groups of persistent symptoms tend to occur together, suggesting there are a number of different types of long COVID.
The study was presented at the European Congress of Clinical Microbiology & Infectious Diseases in Lisbon, Portugal, held Saturday to Tuesday. Such research is considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
“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,” Fischer said in a meeting news release.
Johns Hopkins has more on long COVID.