Long Covid causes erectile dysfunction and hair loss as symptom list expands Register for free to continue reading Register for free to continue reading

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 included loss of smell, shortness of breath and chest pain, others included amnesia, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, inability to perform familiar movements or commands, bowel incontinence and swelling of the extremities.

Symptom patterns tend to cluster into respiratory symptoms, mental health and cognitive problems, and then a wider range of symptoms.

As well as detecting a wider set of symptoms, the researchers also identified key groups and behaviors that put people at greater risk of developing Covid in the long term.

As reported last month, a record 2 million people in the UK are estimated to be suffering from long-term Covid, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Around 3.1 per cent of the British population have symptoms that persist for more than four weeks after contracting Covid. About 376,000 people who first caught Covid at the start of the pandemic have reported symptoms lasting at least two years.

The study suggests that women, younger people and people who belong to a black, mixed race or other ethnic group have a higher risk of developing Covid in the long term.

In addition, those from poorer backgrounds, smokers and people who were overweight or obese, as well as those with any of a wide range of health conditions, were more likely to report persistent symptoms.

Lead author Dr Shamil Haroon is Associate Clinical Professor of Public Health at the University of Birmingham.

He said: “This research validates what patients have been telling doctors and policymakers throughout the pandemic: that long-term Covid symptoms are extremely broad and cannot be fully explained by other factors, such as risk factors for lifestyle or chronic health conditions.

Hair loss and erectile dysfunction have been added to the long growing list of Covid symptoms

(Getty/iStock)

“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 subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed” .

The study found that people who tested positive for the virus reported 62 symptoms significantly more often 12 weeks after the initial infection than those who had not contracted the virus.

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 analyzed the anonymised electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK together with a team of doctors and researchers from England.

The data obtained between January 2020 and April 2021 included the records of 486,149 people with previous infection and 1.9 million people with no evidence of coronavirus infection after matching other clinical diagnoses.

Using data from patients who had not been admitted to hospital, the team of researchers was able to identify the three different categories of symptoms.

Anuradhaa Subramanian, a researcher at the University of Birmingham’s Institute for Applied Health Research and lead author of the paper, said: “Our analyzes of risk factor data are of particular interest because they help us consider what might be causing or contributing to long Covid.”

He added: “Women, for example, are more likely to have autoimmune diseases. Seeing the increased likelihood of women having Covid for a long time 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 of factors to investigate what may be causing these persistent symptoms after an infection and how we can help patients who are experiencing them.”

The findings are published in Nature Medicine.

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