According to WHO, the total number of Covid cases has surpassed 190 million globally, with the death toll crossing 4 million. As the Covid pandemic has progressed, it has become clear that besides the potential of developing fatal or severe illness during the 1st few weeks, a SARS-CoV-2 infection may also result in prolonged illness in some people.
Most people with Covid develop mild-to-moderate symptoms and, after symptom onset, recover within 2–3 weeks. However, a small but significant number of people tend to experience persistent symptoms beyond four weeks after developing Covid. After this acute phase, the symptoms that people experienced are called post-acute Covid 19 or long Covid.
Prolonged illnesses are faced by people in this phase, regardless of the severity of symptoms during the acute phase of the Covid. Among those with this form of the disease, the presentation of symptoms varies. The common symptom includes depression, headache, muscle pain, and fatigue. Around 1 in 5 individuals tend to experience COVID-19 symptoms after five weeks. These symptoms in about 10% of all people with a SARS-CoV-2 infection persist beyond 12 weeks.
The Therapies for long Covid (TLC) study group at the University of Birmingham in the U.K analyzed 27 previously published studies on long Covid to indicate the most common symptoms and gain insights about the predictors of prolonged illness. The researchers also tried to find out the complications associated with long Covid and management practices to care for people with prolonged illness.
According to Dr. Shamil Haroon, study co-author and co-lead of the TLC, “One of the challenges of assessing someone with long COVID is the sheer breadth of symptoms that people have reported and that have been published in the literature. Our systematic review enabled us to combine the results of previous studies on long COVID to produce estimates of the prevalence of the most common symptoms. We [have] used this to develop a symptom burden questionnaire for long COVID that holistically assesses the wide range of potentially related symptoms while providing an objective measure of symptom burden as well as the impact on people’s lives.”
To identify the most common symptoms and predictors of long Covid, a literature search was 1st conducted by the researchers to find studies involving people with the condition. From 27 studies, the researchers analyzed the pooled data on the various long Covid symptoms to derive the common symptoms. They found that altered sense of smell and taste, headaches, joint and muscles pain, difficulty breathing, fatigue were among the most prevalent symptoms during the illness. Cognitive symptoms (memory and concentration problems) and sleep disorders were also frequently observed.
Being hospitalized at system onset and needing oxygen had associations with an increased risk of long Covid. Other factors associated with increase risk of long Covid include having preexisting health conditions, being female, old age.