80 Percent of People With Long COVID Have This In Common, New Study Says
This symptom is the most pervasive among COVID long-haulers, according to the Mayo Clinic.
For many people, the grip of COVID doesn't let go after the 14-day quarantine is up. Some patients develop long COVID, also known as COVID-19 long-haul syndrome, with symptoms that last weeks or even months after the initial illness has passed. And while complications of long COVID vary from person to person, there are some key similarities between cases. A study from the Mayo Clinic published May 11 found that the majority of COVID long haulers have one symptom in common: fatigue.
The study, published in Mayo Clinic Proceedings, found that 80 percent of people with long COVID reported experiencing ongoing fatigue. According to the research, another common occurrence among long-haulers was respiratory problems, with 59 percent of people reporting either trouble breathing, a cough, or both. Patients with long COVID also endure various neurological symptoms: 59 percent said they experienced headache, dizziness, numbness, or a combination of these symptoms. Additionally, 45 percent of participants reported cognitive impairment, also referred to as "brain fog."
Long before this study, COVID long-haulers have been reporting a wide range of symptoms. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), other symptoms of long COVID include loss of smell or taste, heart palpitations, chest pain, joint or muscle pain, fever, and symptoms that worsen after physical or mental activity.
These ongoing symptoms have prevented long-haulers from returning to their normal lives, keeping them from work and exercise. More than one-third of study participants said they had difficulty performing basic daily activities. Only one in three people had been able to return to work unrestricted. Study author Greg Vanichkachorn, MD, medical director of the Mayo Clinic's COVID-19 Activity Rehabilitation program, said in a statement that many of the participants in the study were unable to resume their normal work life for several months following infection due to long COVID symptoms.
And they weren't able to get back to regular life on their own. "Most patients with whom we worked required physical therapy, occupational therapy, or brain rehabilitation to address the perceived cognitive impairment," Vanichkachorn said.
Strikingly, the majority of these long-haul patients were healthy before infection and didn't have a severe case of COVID, which suggests that anyone can be affected by long COVID. "Most patients in the study had no preexisting comorbidities prior to COVID-19 infection, and many did not experience symptoms related to COVID-19 that were severe enough to require hospitalization," Vanichkachorn said in the statement. "Most of the patients had normal or nondiagnostic lab and imaging results, despite having debilitating symptoms. That's among the challenges of diagnosing [long COVID] in a timely way and then responding effectively."