A persistent dry cough and loss of taste and smell are two of the most common symptoms associated with Covid – but now another 200 problems as diverse as hallucinations, inability to yawn or cry and decreased penis or testicle size have been identified as symptoms of the long-term version of the virus, dubbed long Covid.
A new study by a team of researchers at University College London (UCL) who have all got or had long Covid themselves suggests long Covid may be causing more symptoms than previously thought and study first author Hannah Davis explains: “The entire team is made up of Long Covid patients, which is what makes us unique and allowed us to identify even the less publicly-known symptoms that long Covid patients experience.
“Most people don’t realise how multi-systemic long Covid symptoms are, and how most patients experience dozens of symptoms across multiple organ systems.”
Davis, who’s had bad cognitive dysfunction, memory loss, and postural tachycardia (super-high heart rate after standing) as a result of long Covid, says there’s currently no biomarker (a molecule which confirms the presence of a particular virus or disease) for long Covid.
But until one is found, she stresses: “Long Covid is actually surprisingly recognisable given the large number of new symptoms patients experience, the multi-systemic nature of these symptoms, and the recognisable symptoms – such as post-exertional malaise – that aren’t common in other illnesses.”
The UCL study used data from 3,762 people from 56 countries and identified 203 long Covid symptoms in 10 organ systems.
It found the most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion), and cognitive dysfunction (brain fog). The authors are now calling for a national screening programme for anyone who thinks they have long Covid.
And while this study did not estimate how common long Covid is overall, Imperial College London’s React-2 study published in June suggested more than two million people in England may have had long Covid, with about a third of people who had coronavirus reporting symptoms lasting at least 12 weeks.
The most common persistent symptoms flagged in that study included tiredness, shortness of breath, muscle aches and difficulty sleeping.
These are some of the symptoms of long Covid identified in the new study from UCL…
Blood clots, fainting, high or low blood pressure, bulging or inflamed veins, fast heart rate.
Itchiness, brittle or discoloured nails, rashes, peeling skin.
Constipation, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, feeling full quickly, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting.
Head & throat
Facial paralysis/numbness, bloodshot eyes, ear and eye pain, hearing loss, conjunctivitis, runny nose, sore throat, vison loss.
New allergies, shingles, changes in sensitivity to medication.
Joint and muscle pain and aches, experienced by 69.1% of respondents.
Breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, coughs.
Abnormally heavy or irregular periods, decrease in size of penis/testicles, early menopause, post-menopausal bleeding.
Mood & emotion
Aggression, anger, anxiety, apathy, delusions, depression, euphoria, irritability, sense of doom, tearfulness.
Confusion/disorientation, difficulty problem solving, poor attention, difficulty thinking.
Visual, auditory, tactile and other hallucinations
Fatigue, which was suffered by 98.3% of people with long Covid, chills, sweats, fever, post-exertional malaise, high or low blood sugar.
Headaches were suffered by 76.7% of those surveyed, and ranged from migraines to pain in the temples, base of the skull, behind the eyes or all over the head.
Memory problems including forgetting how to do routine tasks, and short- and long-term memory problems. Short-term memory loss was experienced by 64.8% of respondents.
Inability to cry or yawn, dizziness, neuralgia, numbness, seizures, tinnitus, sensation of brain pressure or warmth, sensitivity to noise, tingling/prickling/pins and needles, tremors.
Insomnia, sleep apnea, vivid dreams, nightmares, restless leg syndrome, waking early or during the night, waking unable to breathe. Overall, 78.6% of long Covid sufferers had a sleep problem.
Language & speech
Difficulty understanding others, difficulty reading and writing, slurring words, speaking unrecognisable words.
Smell & taste
Loss of or heightened smell and taste.