Symptoms of long Covid explained as almost two million people suffer in the UK

Condition has more than 200 debilitating symptoms, reveals study

Tara Cobham
Saturday 28 October 2023 10:26 BST
Living with long Covid: The UK’s next health crisis

More than 200 symptoms have been reported by the almost two million long Covid sufferers in the UK.

Extreme tiredness, heart palpitations, and hair loss are among the myriad of debilitating symptoms that patients were revealed to be struggling with in Britain, according to research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) released in July.

A study published in the Lancet in 2021 found long Covid – lasting symptoms of the virus that remain after the infection is gone – has an estimated 203 ailments affecting 10 organs in the body, data from participants across more than 50 countries showed.

These are impacting an estimated 1.9 million people in the UK, according to the ONS’s latest figures. As of March, this is the number of people who have been experiencing coronavirus symptoms for more than four weeks, with 1.5 million reporting these adversely affected their day-to-day activities.

The NHS lists fatigue, feeling short of breath, loss of smell and muscle aches as among the most common symptoms. However, it adds there are many more, including tinnitus, brain fog, depression and anxiety.

The Lancet study indicated the most common symptoms after six months were associated with fatigue and issues with brain function.

It concluded that long Covid patients report “prolonged, multisystem involvement and significant disability”, with many not yet fully recovered by seven months.

And a major new study led by researchers at Imperial College London has revealed one in 20 patients have symptoms lasting more than a year.

There is no cure for long Covid and it affects everyone differently, with treatment to attempt to manage the symptoms offering the best hope for sufferers.

One in 10 long Covid sufferers are forced to stop working at a cost of £1.5 billion in lost earnings every year, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies.

It comes as coronavirus case rates have shown an overall increase since July, with fears the approaching winter will bring a further surge in infections.

Here is the ONS’s list of self-reported long Covid symptoms in the UK:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Allergies
  • Chest pain
  • Cough
  • Diarrhoea
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Ear pain
  • Eyesight
  • Fever
  • General pain
  • Hair loss
  • Headache
  • Joint pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of smell
  • Loss of taste
  • Low mood or not enjoying
  • Memory loss or confusion
  • Mobility
  • Muscle ache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Wheezing
  • Numbness
  • Palpitations
  • Runny nose or sneezing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rash/itch
  • Sore throat
  • Tinnitus
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Vertigo or dizziness
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Worry or anxiety

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