The 7 Symptoms Directly Related to “Long COVID”

University of Missouri investigators found people experiencing post-acute sequelae of COVID-19 (long COVID) are susceptible to developing 7 health defects in the year following infection.

University of Missouri investigators found people experiencing post-acute sequalae of COVID-19 (#LongCOVID) are susceptible to developing 7 health defects in the year following infection.

Ever since the confirmation of post-acute sequalae of COVID-19, investigators have tried to understand why some individuals experience so-called “long COVID.” A recent study, published in Open Forum Infectious Diseases, analyzed a large patient cohort to determine health effects of COVID-19 infection, with surprising findings.

The University of Missouri investigators found that compared to generic respiratory infection, long COVID diagnoses included palpitations, hair loss, fatigue, chest pain, dyspnea, joint pain, and obesity. The finding that symptoms commonly attributed to “long COVID” do not appear more frequently in the post-acute stage has significant implications for our understanding of post-COVID-19 conditions.

To arrive at this result, the investigators reviewed Oracle Cerner real-world data from electronic medical records. Using these deidentified profiles of 52461 COVID-19 patients from 122 health care facilities across the US, the investigators compiled the 47 most frequently reported health long COVID symptoms.

The investigators compared these 47 long COVID symptoms to symptoms shared by other viral respiratory diseases. Specifically, they compared the long COVID symptoms to 3 different subgroups:

  • Individuals diagnosed with COVID-19 who did not have any common viral respiratory infections (e.g., influenza, pneumonia)
  • Individuals with common viral respiratory infections but without COVID-19
  • Individuals not diagnosed with COVID-19 or nay other common viral respiratory infection

From their analyses, the investigators were able to determine which of the symptoms were specific to COVID-19 infection. Compared with common viral respiratory infections, COVID-19 was associated with fast-beating heart, hair loss, fatigue, chest pain, shortness of breath, joint pain, and obesity in the post-infectious period.

“Before we examined the data, I thought we would find an ample amount of the symptoms to be specifically associated with long COVID, but that wasn’t the case,” explained corresponding author Chi-Ren Shyu, PhD, director of the University of Missouri Institute for Data Science and Informatics. “Despite an overwhelming number of long COVID symptoms previously reported by other studies, we only found a few symptoms specifically related to an infection from SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19.”

It is notable that some diagnoses commonly attributed to “long COVID” are actually not unique to COVID-19. “Going forward,” Shyu said, “we can use electronic medical records to quickly detect subgroups of patients who may have these long-term health conditions.”

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