The list of long COVID symptoms keeps growing and new research has added three more things for you to monitor.
As it stands, the World Health Organization lists 33 symptoms for what it calls ‘post-COVID condition’, including ongoing fatigue, breathlessness, memory difficulties and chest pains.
But new research from the University of Birmingham suggests that list needs to be expanded. The study reveals three, quite personal, new long COVID symptoms.
The team found strong links between a previous COVID infection and increased rates of hair loss, reduced libido and, for men, difficulties achieving ejaculation. Anuradhaa Subramanian, one of the study authors, told New Scientist the team found correlations with many previously unknown symptoms.
“We explored the effect of COVID-19 on 115 symptoms of which we found 62 symptoms to be statistically significantly associated with COVID-19 at 12 weeks [or more] after infection,” she says.
“Some of these new symptoms, like reduced libido, sexual dysfunction and hair loss, are really new. They had not been attributed to COVID-19 in the longer term before.”
The researchers analysed the health records of 486,149 people who tested positive for COVID between January 2020 and April 2021 – but weren’t hospitalised. That data was then compared with the records of a healthy control group that had not had COVID.
Those who had contracted COVID were more likely to report having any of the 62 symptoms at least 12 weeks after their initial infection, compared with those who had not had COVID.
Lowered libido and problems with ejaculation are common symptoms of many chronic conditions, suggesting long COVID may also need to be classed as chronic.
It’s less clear how COVID is affecting hair loss. Ms Subramanian notes that some particularly nasty strains of the flu can also impact your hairline.
“When your body is in a state of stress, it can result in new hair growth, which actually, paradoxically, causes your existing hair to fall out,” says Dr Shamil Haroon, another of the study’s authors.
“This is a condition called telogen effluvium. In this [condition], it’s not like a single patch of hair, but rather it’s kind of generalised hair loss, so that is one potential mechanism for COVID-related hair loss.”
The news comes as Australia hits another grim COVID milestone. Late on Monday afternoon it was reported that there were 5439 people in hospital with COVID – the highest number since January.
There were more than 323,000 new COVID cases over the past seven days, with federal health minister Mark Butler warning the real number is most likely much higher.
One expert believes we may reach the peak of this latest wave sooner than expected.
University of South Australia epidemiologist Professor Adrian Esterman told the Australian Financial Review that Australia was “just about to hit the peak” of hospitalisations. He expects hospital admissions to start falling in the next two weeks.
Despite that positive view, Prof. Esterman says he still holds great concerns for future waves.
“What we’re seeing is a sub-variant wave every two to three months, and it could well be that there’s another sub-variant that comes along and hits us in two to three months’ time,” he says.
“What we’re seeing is these successive waves of cases in Australia, but after each peak has finished, it doesn’t go back to low numbers of cases, it stays high.”
If you enjoy our content, don’t keep it to yourself. Share our free eNews with your friends and encourage them to sign up.