Long Covid: 4 key factors linked to increased risk of developing long-term coronavirus symptoms

People who suffer with coronavirus symptoms for more than 12 weeks are said to have Long Covid

<p>Those who suffer with symptoms for more than 12 weeks are said to have long Covid (Composite: Mark Hall / JPIMedia)</p>

Those who suffer with symptoms for more than 12 weeks are said to have long Covid (Composite: Mark Hall / JPIMedia)

Most people will make a full recovery from Covid within a matter of weeks, but for some symptoms can last for several months.

Those who suffer with the effects of coronavirus for more than 12 weeks are said to have ‘Long Covid’, or ‘post-Covid-19 syndrome, and symptoms can be very varied and change over time.

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Developing long-term symptoms does not appear to be linked to how ill you are when you are first infected with Covid-19, but new research has identified four key factors that could increase your risk.

What factors increase the risk of Long Covid?

A recent study published in the medical journal Cell identified four common factors that can be seen in the early stages of coronavirus infections.

Researchers said these factors are often found in people who later develop long-lasting symptoms, even if the infection was mild.

The four factors thought to increase the likelihood of developing Long Covid are:

  • the viral load in a person’s blood
  • the presence of certain autoantibodies (antibodies that recognise parts of our own body) which are often used to combat the virus and its symptoms
  • the reactivation of the Epstein-Barr virus, which has been known to infect people at a young age
  • the patient has Type 2 diabetes

Commenting on the findings, Dr. Steven Deeks, a professor of medicine at the University of California, San Francisco, told The New York Times: “It’s the first real solid attempt to come up with some biologic mechanisms for Long Covid.

“They’ve identified these four major factors. Each is biologically plausible, consistent with theories that other people are pursuing, and importantly, each is actionable.

“If these pathways get confirmed, we as clinicians can actually design interventions to make people better. That is the take-home message.”

What are the symptoms of long Covid?

A person who suffers ongoing symptoms for longer than 12 weeks, and the effects cannot be explained by any other condition, is said to have Long Covid.

The effects can be very wide-ranging and will vary from person to person, but common symptoms typically include:

  • extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • shortness of breath
  • chest pain or tightness
  • problems with memory and concentration ("brain fog")
  • difficulty sleeping (insomnia)
  • heart palpitations
  • dizziness
  • pins and needles
  • joint pain
  • depression and anxiety
  • tinnitus, earaches
  • feeling sick, diarrhoea, stomach aches, loss of appetite
  • a high temperature, cough, headaches, sore throat, changes to sense of smell or taste
  • rashes

What support is there for people with Long Covid?

Anyone who is suffering from persistent symptoms four or more weeks after having Covid are encouraged to seek advice from a GP.

A doctor may recommend some tests to find out more about the symptoms and to rule out other factors that could be causing them. This may include a blood test, checking your blood pressure and heart rate, or a chest X-ray.

You may be given advice to help manage and monitor symptoms at home, but if the effects are having a disruptive impact on your life, it is possible you may be referred to a specialist rehabilitation service, or a service that specialises in the specific symptoms you have.

More information to support your recovery can be found on the Your COVID Recovery website.

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