More than half of the 236 million people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide since December 2019 will experience post-COVID symptoms — more commonly known as “long COVID” — up to six months after recovering, according to Penn State College of Medicine researchers. The research team said that governments, health care organizations and public health professionals should prepare for the large number of COVID-19 survivors who will need care for a variety of psychological and physical symptoms.
During their illnesses, many patients with COVID-19 experience symptoms, such as tiredness, difficulty breathing, chest pain, sore joints and loss of taste or smell.
Until recently, few studies have evaluated patients’ health after recovering from the coronavirus. To better understand the short- and long-term health effects of the virus, the researchers examined worldwide studies involving unvaccinated patients who recovered from COVID-19. According to the findings, adults, as well as children, can experience several adverse health issues for six months or longer after recovering from COVID-19.
The researchers conducted a systematic review of 57 reports that included data from 250,351 unvaccinated adults and children who were diagnosed with COVID-19 from December 2019 through March 2021. Among those studied, 79% were hospitalized, and most patients (79%) lived in high-income countries. Patients’ median age was 54, and the majority of individuals (56%) were male.
The researchers analyzed patients’ health post-COVID during three intervals at one month (short-term), two to five months (intermediate-term) and six or more months (long-term).
According to the findings, survivors experienced an array of residual health issues associated with COVID-19. Generally, these complications affected a patient’s general well-being, their mobility or organ systems. Overall, one in two survivors experienced long-term COVID manifestations. The rates remained largely constant from one month through six or more months after their initial illness.
The investigators noted several trends among survivors, such as:
- General well-being: More than half of all patients reported weight loss, fatigue, fever or pain.
- Mobility: Roughly one in five survivors experienced a decrease in mobility.
- Neurologic concerns: Nearly one in four survivors experienced difficulty concentrating.
- Mental health disorders: Nearly one in three patients were diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorders.
- Lung abnormalities: Six in ten survivors had chest imaging abnormality and more than a quarter of patients had difficulty breathing.
- Cardiovascular issues: Chest pain and palpitations were among the commonly reported conditions.
- Skin conditions: Nearly one in five patients experienced hair loss or rashes.
- Digestive issues: Stomach pain, lack of appetite, diarrhea and vomiting were among the commonly reported conditions.
Release date: 13 October 2021
Source: Penn State