Hair loss and erectile dysfunction have joined the long list of Covid symptoms, according to new research.
The study found that while the most common symptoms are loss of smell, shortness of breath, and chest pain, others also include amnesia, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, an inability to perform familiar movements or commands, bowel incontinence, and limb swelling.
Symptom patterns were typically grouped into respiratory symptoms, mental health, and cognitive problems, and then into a broader range of symptoms.
In addition to discovering a broader range of symptoms, the researchers identified key groups and behaviors that put people at increased risk of long-term illness with Covid.
As reported last month, an estimated 2 million people in the UK suffer from Long Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).
Around 3.1 per cent of the UK population suffers from symptoms lasting more than four weeks after contracting Covid. Around 376,000 people who first contracted Covid at the start of the pandemic have reported symptoms lasting at least two years.
The study suggests that women, younger people and those from a black, multiracial or other ethnic group are at higher risk of long-term illness from Covid.
Additionally, those from poorer backgrounds, smokers, and those who are overweight or obese, and those with a variety of health problems were more likely to report persistent symptoms.
Senior Author Dr. Shamil Haroon is Associate Clinical Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham.
He said: “This research confirms what patients have been telling doctors and policymakers during the pandemic – that the symptoms of long-term Covid are extremely broad-based and cannot be fully explained by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions.
“The symptoms we have identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects of Covid-19 and then consider how best to manage this burden of symptoms.”
People who tested positive for the virus were much more likely to report 62 symptoms 12 weeks after initial infection than those who had not contracted the virus, the study found.
The NHS list of common Covid symptoms includes fatigue, shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness and ‘brain fog’.
Researchers from the University of Birmingham, along with a team of doctors and researchers from across England, analyzed the anonymized electronic medical records of 2.4 million people in the UK.
Data collected between January 2020 and April 2021 included the records of 486,149 people with prior infection and 1.9 million people with no evidence of coronavirus infection after comparison with other clinical diagnoses.
Using data from patients who had not been hospitalized, the research team was able to identify the three different categories of symptoms.
Anuradhaa Subramanian, research associate at the Institute for Applied Health Research at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the paper, said: “Our risk factor data analyzes are of particular interest because they help us to consider what could possibly be causing or contributing to Covid for too long.”
She added: “Women are more likely to suffer from autoimmune diseases, for example. The increased likelihood of women having long-term Covid, seen in our study, increases our interest in investigating whether autoimmunity or other causes may explain the increased risk in women.
“These observations will help further narrow the focus on factors to investigate what may be causing these persistent symptoms after infection and how we can help patients affected by them.”
The results are published in naturopathy.