here are more than 200 symptoms of long Covid and more than nine in 10 people suffer from the disease for more than eight months, London researchers revealed today.
The findings, from an international survey led by University College London, prompted calls for the UK to introduce a national screening programme for long Covid.
According to the Office for National Statistics, long Covid currently affects 962,000 Britons, with an estimated 385,000 suffering for longer than a year.
Today’s research, the largest global study of “long haulers” to date, with 3,762 participants in 56 countries, found long Covid caused symptoms in 10 organ systems in the human body.
The most common symptoms were fatigue, post-exertional malaise (the worsening of symptoms after physical or mental exertion), and cognitive dysfunction, often called brain fog.
Other symptoms included visual hallucinations, tremors, itchy skin, changes to the menstrual cycle, sexual dysfunction, heart palpitations, bladder control issues, shingles, memory loss, blurred vision, diarrhoea and tinnitus.
The research team, who have all had or continue to have long Covid, are calling for clinical guidelines on assessing long Covid to be significantly widened beyond currently advised cardiovascular and respiratory function tests to include neuropsychiatric, neurological, and activity intolerance symptoms.
They also called for a national screening programme to be launched to prevent thousands of people “suffering in silence” without a diagnosis.
Senior author Dr Athena Akrami, a neuroscientist at UCL’s Sainsbury Wellcome Centre, said: “We have gone directly to ‘long haulers’ around the world in order to establish a foundation of evidence for medical investigation, improvement of care, and advocacy for the long Covid population.
“This is the most comprehensive characterisation of long Covid symptoms, so far.”
In the survey, published in the Lancet’s E-Clinical Medicine, the probability of symptoms lasting beyond 35 weeks (eight months) was 91.8 per cent.
Almost 90 per cent of respondents suffered relapses, with exercise, physical or mental activity, and stress as the main triggers. Some 45 per cent had to reduce their workload and 22.3 per cent were not working at all at the time of the survey.
Earlier this week it was revealed that scientists at Imperial College London hope to have a blood test able to detect long Covid ready within a year.