As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, many individuals are experiencing lingering and prolonged symptoms long after their initial infection has cleared. This phenomenon, known as “long-COVID,” or “post-acute sequelae of SARS-CoV-2 infection” (PASC), has been garnering increased attention from researchers and healthcare professionals alike.
Long-COVID is a condition where individuals experience a wide range of symptoms that last for weeks or even months after recovering from the acute phase of COVID-19. While the exact causes of long-COVID are not yet fully understood, it is believed to be the result of the body’s immune response to the virus, persistent inflammation, or the virus itself causing ongoing damage to the body.
Below, we examine the common and uncommon symptoms of long-COVID, and what researchers and healthcare professionals know about the condition so far.
Common Symptoms of Long-COVID
Fatigue: One of the most commonly reported symptoms of long-COVID is fatigue, which is often described as an overwhelming lack of energy and difficulty in performing daily tasks. This fatigue can be particularly severe and debilitating, affecting the individual’s ability to work, exercise, and socialize.
Breathlessness: Many individuals with long-COVID experience breathlessness or difficulty breathing. This symptom may be accompanied by a persistent cough and chest pain.
Brain fog: A significant number of long-COVID patients report experiencing brain fog, which can manifest as difficulty concentrating, memory problems, and confusion. This can interfere with a person’s ability to function at work or in social situations.
Joint and muscle pain: Muscle pain and joint pain are common symptoms of long-COVID. These symptoms can be widespread, affecting multiple areas of the body, or localized to specific regions.
Headaches: Persistent headaches are another commonly reported symptom of long-COVID, ranging from mild to severe in intensity.
Anxiety and depression: Many individuals with long-COVID experience anxiety, depression, or mood swings, which may be related to the physical symptoms, ongoing health concerns, or the impact of the condition on their daily lives.
Less Common Symptoms of Long-COVID
Heart palpitations: Some individuals with long-COVID report heart palpitations or irregular heart rhythms, which can be accompanied by chest pain and shortness of breath.
Digestive problems: Digestive issues such as nausea, diarrhea, and loss of appetite are less common but still reported symptoms of long-COVID.
Skin issues: Some long-COVID patients experience skin issues, including rashes, hives, or redness.
Loss of taste and smell: A small percentage of long-COVID patients continue to experience a loss of taste or smell for weeks or months after their initial infection.
Researchers and healthcare professionals are actively investigating the causes, risk factors, and treatment options for long-COVID. Some studies suggest that the severity of the initial COVID-19 infection may be associated with the risk of developing long-COVID. However, long-COVID can also occur in individuals who had mild or even asymptomatic COVID-19 cases. Factors such as age, sex, and pre-existing health conditions may also play a role in the development of long-COVID.
Research is also focused on understanding the mechanisms underlying long-COVID symptoms. It is currently believed that long-COVID may be the result of a combination of factors, including ongoing viral activity, immune system dysfunction, and inflammation.
Treatment and Support
While there is no specific treatment for long-COVID, healthcare providers may offer symptom-based management, including pain relief, breathing exercises, and lifestyle modifications. Individuals with long-COVID may benefit from physical therapy, occupational therapy, or mental health support.
As the pandemic continues, it is crucial to continue studying and addressing the needs of individuals affected by long-COVID. This requires ongoing research, patient advocacy, and support for those living with persistent symptoms.