‘Long Covid’ could be four different syndromes (Picture: PA) The number of people suffering ‘debilitating’ long-term symptoms from ‘long Covid’ is expected to rise, academics have said – warning that the condition could in fact be as many as four different syndromes.
Researchers from the National Institute for Health Research conducted a review examining reports for those with ongoing coronavirus symptoms who were still unable to work, study or care for dependents several months after their initial coronavirus infection.
The syndromes were categorised broadly as: post intensive care syndrome, post viral fatigue syndrome, permanent organ damage and long term Covid syndrome. But researchers say it is also possible to suffer from more than one of the problems simultaneously.
Dr Elaine Maxwell, the author of the review, said: ‘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.
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‘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.’
She continued: ‘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.’
Those with a mild infection may have worse ongoing symptoms than those who are critically ill according to the report (Picture: PA) She added that for some people there are ‘real’ psychological and mental health issues including anxiety and depression.
As the second wave continues to gather pace across Europe, Dr Maxwell also warned of rising numbers of ‘long Covid’ sufferers. The wide range of symptoms has meant doctors have struggled to make a diagnosis, and patients have also struggled to access appropriate care.
She continued: ‘There is likely to be a rise in the number of people with long Covid in coming months. People without a clear diagnosis told us they’re often not believed by health services.’
Dr Maxwell also added that some people with a mild infection may have worse ongoing symptoms than those who are 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’, she claimed.
The report said long Covid sufferers without a clear diagnosis often were not believed by health services (Picture: PA) The report warned not to assume that people who are at lower risk of severe illness and death from Covid-19 are also at low risk of long Covid.
Health officials have estimated that 60,000 people could be suffering with long-term after effects.
Claire Hastie, founder of the Long Covid Support Group, said: ‘The report highlights the immense complexities and wide-ranging impacts of long Covid, physically, psychologically, financially and socially – even on those who were not admitted to hospital.
‘It is vital that there is urgent investment in research into patients who weren’t admitted to hospital to understand the causes and potential treatment.’
The report 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.
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