Home Men Health Long-COVID’s crippling aftermath: Study reveals persistent symptoms severely impact quality of life, especially in women

Long-COVID’s crippling aftermath: Study reveals persistent symptoms severely impact quality of life, especially in women

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Long-COVID’s crippling aftermath: Study reveals persistent symptoms severely impact quality of life, especially in women

So far, greater than 692 million individuals have been infected with the severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), the causal agent of the continuing coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic.

Most people infected with SARS-CoV-2 experience mild to moderate symptoms that don’t require hospitalization. In some cases, COVID-19 symptoms persist for a chronic period after initial recovery from the infection. This condition has been termed as post-COVID-19 syndrome or long COVID.

Study: Impaired health-related quality of life in long-COVID syndrome after mild to moderate COVID-19. Image Credit: tommaso79 / Shutterstock.com

Background

Some common long COVID symptoms include headache, anosmia, fatigue, and dyspnea. Previous studies have identified some aspects that could be answerable for long COVID including prolonged immune activation resulting from the persistence of SARS-CoV-2 within the body and lymphocyte dysfunctions much like autoimmune diseases. 

A high degree of variance has been observed while estimating the prevalence of long COVID because of this of various recruitment methods and time points of assessments across studies. Overall, there stays a lack of awareness on the pathophysiological mechanisms answerable for long COVID.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has defined quality of life as “a person’s perception of their position in life within the context of the culture and value systems during which they live and in relation to their goals, expectations, standards, and concerns”.

Several studies have evaluated how chronic diseases influence health-related quality of life (HRQoL).

Previous research has shown that HRQoL is impaired after hospitalization resulting from severe SARS-CoV-2 infection. Nevertheless, these studies didn’t explain how HRQoL is affected resulting from long COVID after a light or moderately acute infection. 

Concerning the study

A recent Scientific Reports study determined HRQoL in a Swiss cohort comprised of patients with long COVID after experiencing mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 symptoms. The University Hospital of Zurich formed an interdisciplinary outpatient clinic for patients with long COVID symptoms. Each patient accomplished questionnaires regarding HRQoL after consultation. 

Patients who suffered from long COVID or were vulnerable to developing long COVID after mild or moderate infection were chosen for this study. These patients suffered either systemic symptoms, akin to recurrent fever and fatigue, or organ-specific symptoms like palpitations and cough. Patients who required prolonged hospitalization, admission to the intensive care unit (ICU), or supplemental oxygen throughout the acute phase of COVID-19 were excluded from the cohort. 

Study findings

A complete of 112 long COVID patients identified between February 2021 and August 2021 accomplished the HRQoL questionnaires. A lot of the participants were women whose median age was 43 years and body mass index (BMI) value was 24.4 kg/m2

A few of the patients suffered from asthma, pre-pandemic mental health issues, or had not less than one comorbidity. Most patients experienced a light acute SARS-CoV-2 infection. Long COVID primarily impacted physical health as in comparison with mental health.

Mechanistically, long-lasting COVID-19 symptoms after severe and mild infection differ significantly. Most patients with long COVID that arises following a light infection were found to suffer from issues related to pain and anxiety, whereas their  mobility was not significantly affected.

The findings of this study were compared with data on physical and mental health retrieved from a Swiss cohort that was developed throughout the first lockdown in Switzerland (CoWell study). Throughout the second and third COVID-19 waves in Switzerland, similar degrees of physical and mental impairments were observed in patients who had recovered from SARS-CoV-2 infection. Notably, pandemic-related restrictions that aimed to stop further spread of SARS-CoV-2 could have contributed to a few of these symptoms.

Consistent with these observations, one previous study reported a discount in all health domains after mild, moderate, or severe acute COVID-19. The identical degree of mental and physical health-related long COVID symptoms manifested after severe and mild/moderate COVID-19.

Respiratory symptoms like dyspnea had a greater impact on the patient’s physical activity. Nevertheless, a lot of the patients in the present study exhibited lower intensity and/or frequency of respiration symptoms. Notably, as in comparison with men, females were at a better risk of developing long COVID after mild/moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection.

Conclusions

The present study is the primary to match HRQoL in patients affected by long COVID after mild to moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection between pre-pandemic and pandemic cohorts.

Long COVID symptoms after mild/moderate SARS-CoV-2 infection affected the standard of life on this group of patients. Thus, long COVID increased the general disease burden.

Future studies are needed to find out how long COVID affects social and economic conditions.

Journal reference:

  • Malesevic, S., Sievi, N. A., Baumgartner, P., et al. (2023) Impaired health-related quality of life in long-COVID syndrome after mild to moderate COVID-19. Scientific Reports 13(7717). doi:10.1038/s41598-023-34678-8

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