Thousands of people continue to suffer from exhaustion, cognitive problems, and other long-lasting symptoms after a coronavirus infection. The exact causes of the illness, known as long COVID, are not known. But new research, conducted by the University Medical Center Groningen (UMCG), offers clues, describing the toll the illness takes on the body and why it can be so debilitating.
The UMCG research shows even people who are vaccinated can experience long-lasting effects of COVID-19 infection that affect the heart, brain, lungs and other parts of the body, reports RTV Noord.
The study of more than 13,000 patients found vaccination reduced the risk of long COVID, but even inoculated people who have mild infections can still experience lingering, crippling symptoms.
“Not all those people are seriously limited in their daily lives by the long COVID, but some of them are, and the health care system needs to be able to deal with the issue,” Judith Rosmalen, Professor of Psychosomatic Medicine who took part in the research says.
Long COVID is a chronic illness with a variety serious symptoms many of which are not explainable using conventional medical procedures. Difficulties in detecting the disease led some doctors to dismiss patients or misdiagnose them. But researchers looking more deeply at long COVID patients are realizing that the dysfunction affects the whole body.
The UMCG study estimates that over 12% of people infected with the coronavirus may develop long-term symptoms. “We looked at how the participants developed symptoms after COVID, compared to how they felt before the infection,” Professor Rosmalen says. “It turns out that one in eight people in the months after their infection suffered from chest pain, loss of smell and taste, shortness of breath, fatigue and muscle pain.”
The UMCG research provides one of the first comparisons of long-term symptoms after coronavirus infection with symptoms in an uninfected population, as well as those in individuals both pre- and post-COVID-19 infection.
The results of the study were published in The Lancet journal on Friday.