Health researchers issue warning over 'debilitating' effects of long covid

15 October 2020, 07:34 | Updated: 16 November 2020, 19:22

People have reported having symptoms seven months after beating the virus
People have reported having symptoms seven months after beating the virus. Picture: PA

By Asher McShane

Health researchers have warned of the 'debilitating' effects of long covid which could actually be four different syndromes.

Academics have warned that long Covid could actually be four different syndromes.

They have been categorised as: post intensive care syndrome, post viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome. Some patients may suffer them simultaneously.

Some have reported symptoms as long as seven months after infection and those who had a mild illness at the start can have worse ongoing symptoms than patients who needed intensive care treatment.

Even children can suffer, researchers said.

Read more: Consultants paid £7,000 a day to work on test and trace

Read more: London 'likely' to enter tier two this week

Meanwhile, some people are living with a "rollercoaster of symptoms" that "move around the body".

Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research who reviewed the available evidence said ongoing Covid symptoms examined reports from people of all ages and backgrounds.

They said that it cannot be assumed that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of ongoing Covid.

Academics said that more work is needed to help those who are suffering as they said that many are "not believed" when they seek help.

Ongoing symptoms can include breathlessness, chronic fatigue, "brain fog", anxiety and stress.

Meanwhile, others may have suffered permanent organ damage.

Some have reported "floating" symptoms whereby they suffer an illness linked to one part of the body - such as the respiratory system, the brain, cardiovascular system and heart, the kidneys, the gut, the liver or skin - which later abates only for new symptoms to arise in a different part of the body.

Such a wide range of symptoms, and different presentations of illness, mean that it is hard for doctors to diagnose, which means that it is equally difficult for patients to access the appropriate care, they added.

They also said that they did not like the term "long Covid" because it may mean that some patients who are struggling with ongoing after-effects are being missed.

Researchers called for anyone who believes they are suffering long-term after-effects to be logged as such in their NHS records, and the health service should adopt an approach of a "working diagnosis" to help those in need.

Academics stressed that the understanding of the effects are still at an early stage as they called on people living with the after-effects to get involved with research.

Dr Elaine Maxwell, review author, said: "We know from a number of surveys both in the UK and across the world, that a significant number of people experience ongoing effects after a Covid-19 infection.

"The list of symptoms is huge and covers every part of the body and brain.

"We heard from people who are still unable to work, study or care for dependents several months after their initial infection.

"We believe that the term 'long Covid' is being used as a capsule for more than one syndrome, possibly up to four.

"And we believe that the lack of distinction between these syndromes may explain the challenges people are having in being believed and accessing services.

"Some people experience classic post critical illness symptoms, others experience fatigue and brain fog in a way that's consistent with post viral fatigue syndrome.

"Some people have clear evidence of permanent organ damage caused by the virus, particularly lung damage and heart damage.

"But a significant group have debilitating symptoms that do not fit any of those three categories. They describe the rollercoaster of symptoms that move around the body."

She added that for some people there are "real" psychological and mental health issues including anxiety and depression.

Understanding the differences between the syndromes is vital for helping patients recover, she added.

She said the gaps in knowledge about the ongoing effects need to be ungently filled so people can get the best support.

"There is likely to be a rise in the number of people with long Covid in coming months," she added.

"People without a clear diagnosis told us they're often not believed by health services.

"Those who have been diagnosed and not always recognised in other parts of the service.

"We were told as recently as last week, as someone who has been diagnosed by their GP as having long Covid, who's now in month seven (of illness), called an ambulance because a new symptom and fainting and dizziness, and was told by the ambulance crews that it was caused by a panic attack."

She added that some people with a mild infection may have worse ongoing symptoms that those most critically ill.

"There are people who never had any support in hospital, never had a test, have no record of ever having had Covid, except their own personal history. They may be suffering far more than somebody who's ventilated for 21 days," said Dr Maxwell.

And some people who were in intensive care have no ongoing symptoms, she added.

Dr Maxwell continued: "The reason we don't like the term (long Covid) is because we think it's too vague.

"We recognise long haul is an American term, long Covid tends to be the British.

"And the thing that everybody has in common is that they are experiencing debilitating systems over a long period of time.

"But our point is there are subdivisions within that. And if you just use one overarching term you miss the distinctions, and that has implications both for research but also for advice that people are given."

Health officials have estimated that 60,000 people could be suffering with long-term after effects of Covid-19.

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

Plaid Cymru leader calls for MP Jonathan Edwards to resign after assaulting wife

Plaid Cymru leader calls for MP to 'resign immediately' after receiving police caution for assaulting wife

Firefighters found an unexploded WW2 bomb whilst tackling a huge wildfire sparked by disposable BBQ in Dorset

Firefighters find unexploded WW2 bomb whilst tackling huge blaze sparked by disposable BBQ

JK Rowling has said she is working with the police after receiving a death threat

'You are next': JK Rowling receives death threat after supporting stabbed author Salman Rushdie

Hundreds of households have been without water amid the blistering heat.

Hundreds of households without water as blistering heat set to reach 35C before thunderstorms batter UK

The stage hit festival-goers at the Medusa Festival near Valencia.

One killed and dozens injured after stage at Spanish music festival crashes down in 'strong wind'

Mick Lynch, general secretary of the RMT, has faced criticism for his remarks.

Mick Lynch suggests EU influence and Ukrainians 'playing with Nazi imagery' provoked Russian invasion

Train strikes are set to grind the country to a halt on Saturday.

Major travel disruption across UK as train drivers strike over pay - find out the services affected

Britney Spears still married her husband Sam Asghari despite ex-husband Jason Alexander (right) attempting to "crash" it in an Instagram live.

Britney Spears' ex-husband jailed for trying to crash her wedding to Sam Asghari

Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage. The suspect was named by police as 24-year-old Hadi Matar from New Jersey.

Salman Rushdie on ventilator and may lose eye after being stabbed as man, 24, charged with attempted murder

The Mar-a-Lago Estate, owned by Donald Trump, lies at the water's edge in Palm Beach, Florida.

Donald Trump being investigated under Espionage Act, unsealed search warrant reveals

Anne Heche has died a week after the crash in LA

'We have lost a bright light': Hollywood actress Anne Heche dies aged 53 after LA car crash

The incidents took place in Skye and Dornie

Man appears in court charged with Isle of Skye murder and three attempted murders including his wife

Heritage Railway staff tell Thomas the Tank Engine fans told to refer to the Fat Controller as Sir Topham Hatt

Thomas the Tank Engine fans told to refer to the Fat Controller as Sir Topham Hatt

Mayor of London 'seriously concerned' about possible flash floods next week

Mayor of London 'seriously concerned' about possible flash floods in London

Salman Rushdie was attacked on stage

Police identify suspect after Salman Rushdie stabbed in the neck and abdomen while on stage at New York event

Pensioner cleared of killing baby boy, 5, due to her undiagnosed dementia

Pensioner, 75, with undiagnosed dementia cleared of causing crash that killed baby boy