A new study identifies lower sex drive and hair loss as long COVID symptoms

As if getting COVID was not bad enough.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Erectile dysfunction is among symptoms of long Covid.
Erectile dysfunction is among symptoms of long Covid.serts/iStock
  • The study looked at the electronic health records of 2.4 million people.
  • It found women were more at risk of getting long COVID.
  • Researchers hope to use the study to help patients.

As if getting COVID wasn’t bad enough, a new study from the University of Birmingham has now revealed that those who catch the virus may suffer from additional symptoms in the long run, according to a press release by the institution published in late July.

Validating patient complaints

“This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policy-makers throughout the pandemic, that the symptoms of Long Covid are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions,” said Dr. Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor in Public Health at the University of Birmingham and the senior author on the study.

“The symptoms we identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers to improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects from Covid-19, and to subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed.”

To come to their conclusions, the researchers analyzed the anonymized electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK taken between January 2020 and April 2021. This data set comprised of 486,149 people with prior infection, and 1.9 million people with no indication of coronavirus infection after matching for other clinical diagnoses.

A new study identifies lower sex drive and hair loss as long COVID symptoms
Long COVID has serious consequences.

The scientists found three types of problems that could be categorized into the following groups: respiratory symptoms, mental health, and cognitive problems. A broader range of symptoms included anosmia, shortness of breath, chest pain, fever, amnesia, apraxia, bowel incontinence, erectile dysfunction, hallucinations, hair loss, and limb swelling.

Understanding the complexity and pathology of long COVID

“This study is instrumental in creating and adding further value to understanding the complexity and pathology of long COVID. It highlights the degree and diversity of expression of symptoms between different clusters. Patients with pre-existing health conditions will also welcome the additional analysis on risk factors,” said the patient partner and co-author of this study Jennifer Camaradou.

The study further identified groups of people that were at greater risk of developing long COVID, such as females, younger people; or those belonging to black, mixed, or other ethnic groups.

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“Women are, for example, more likely to experience autoimmune diseases. Seeing the increased likelihood of women having long COVID in our study increases our interest in investigating whether autoimmunity or other causes may explain the increased risk in women. These observations will help to further narrow the focus on factors to investigate that may be causing these persistent symptoms after an infection, and how we can help patients who are experiencing them,” said Anuradhaa Subramanian, Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham and lead author of the paper.

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