Long Covid: Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

“DO I HAVE LONG COVID?” This question has probably crossed your mind if you are still dealing with persistent symptomssuch as fatigue, brain fog, or shortness of breath, weeks or months after recovering from COVID-19(female.

Most people who have had covid fully recover from their infections. But in January 2023, 11% of people who had Covid were living with it. long covidaccording to Household surveya partnership between the Census Bureau and the National Center for Health Statistics.

Understanding the Covid for a long time remains difficult for doctors. There is no standard clinical definition for the condition or test to diagnose it. He can even have different namessuch as post-Covid conditions, long-haul Covid, post-acute sequelae of SARS CoV-2 infection (PASC) or chronic Covid.

So what is the long Covid? “Long Covid is basically symptoms that persist after covid infection for an extended period,” says Brian Labus, Ph.D., MPHassistant professor at the University of Nevada Las Vegas Department of Epidemiology and Biostatistics. “More than a month or more after infection, people are still sick with a variety of different symptoms.”

The problem, he says, is that for a long time Covid itself is not a disease. “People have different types of symptoms that occur after Covidand it affects people very differently.

Helpful news is that long Covid symptoms — which can vary widely — tend to subside over time, Labus says. Another is that more than 50 clinics have sprung up across the country to help understand and manage the long Covid.

Yet long Covid can seem like a mystery and be incredibly frustrating if you face it. Here are eight things you need to know about it now.

1. Some people are more likely to have long Covid than others

Anyone who has had Covid-19 can have long Covid, but some groups are more susceptible.

“The group most at risk is the one who is hospitalized (with Covid) and develops a serious illness,” explains Thomas Russo, MDprofessor and head of the infectious diseases department at University at Buffalo Department of Medicine.

close up of elderly asian woman getting covid 19 vaccine in arm for coronavirus vaccination by doctor in hospital elderly health care and disease prevention concept

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People who have not received Covid vaccine are at higher risk of contracting Covid, having a more severe case and developing post-Covid infections, according to the Centers for Disaster Control and Prevention.

It is not certain that you will have Covid for long if you have had Covid-19. Some people recover completely without lingering symptoms.

2. He has a wide range of symptoms

Hundreds of symptoms have been linked to long covid. Dr. Russo says the symptoms people experience and their severity can vary.

“For some people, it’s completely debilitating,” Labus says. “For others, it’s a mild, persistent illness.”

The variability is likely based on genetics, the severity of previous Covid infection and the mechanism behind these symptoms, which Dr Russo says is not yet fully understood.

Common symptoms of long Covid include:

  • Fatigue or fatigue
  • Fever
  • Respiratory symptoms, such as difficulty breathing, cough, or shortness of breath
  • Heart problems, such as heart palpitations or chest pain
  • Neurological symptoms, such as brain fog, headaches, sleep problems, or pins and needles
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Diarrhea or stomach pain
  • Joint or muscle pain
  • Dyserection

3. There is no test for Long Covid

Currently there is no way to test Covid for long. But Dr Russo says scientists are working to develop one because there are likely biomarkers to suggest you have long Covid.

Doctors also don’t yet have specific diagnostic criteria for diagnosing long Covid, Labus says.

Doctors are therefore checking to see if someone has had Covid-19 before and if they are still showing signs and symptoms. four weeks later (or more) that are not related to other causes.

“It’s really just based on the person being sick with Covid, they’re still having severe symptoms, and whatever you call it, they’re obviously not feeling well, and their doctor is working with them to try and mitigate those issues,” says Labus.

4. Long Covid is a “diagnosis of exclusion”

As there is no test for long Covid or official criteria for the disease, doctors can run tests to rule out other health issues.

doctor showing results to patient in hospital

Portrait//Getty Images

“If non-long Covid diagnoses are ruled out, your symptoms are likely due to long Covid,” says Dr Russo. “Currently, it is a diagnosis of exclusion.”

5. A specific long Covid treatment does not yet exist

There is no medication or other treatment specifically for long Covid. For now, doctors are treating any lingering symptoms or conditions someone has developed after having Covid.

“If it was causing breathing problems and people were still having trouble breathing, you would treat that to help them breathe more easily,” Labus says. “If they have neurological issues, you will focus on that.”

6. You should see your doctor for any post-Covid symptoms

If your Covid symptoms persist or you just don’t feel well after having Covid, Dr Russo suggests seeing your doctor to get checked out.

“We need to figure out what might be causing the symptoms,” he says. “It may not be long Covid. It could be something different, and it could be something that can be healed. It could be something that could be very important to move forward and settle.

Once other diagnoses are ruled out and your doctor suggests you likely have long Covid, they will help manage your symptoms, Dr. Russo says.

7. There is only one way to prevent the long Covid

Not having Covid is the only way to avoid a long Covid. Getting vaccinated minimizes your risk of Covid and getting seriously ill or having to be hospitalized.

“We know that people with more severe disease are more likely to have long Covid,” says Labus. “So even if the vaccine doesn’t prevent you from catching Covid, it may prevent you from being in the high-risk category of developing long Covid.”

And, if you haven’t received the latest reminder of the covid-19 bivalent vaccine, Dr. Russo suggests doing this as soon as possible. It includes components from both the original virus and the omicron variant to provide extended protection.

It’s also likely that boosters will be needed each year, he adds.

8. Long Covid symptoms tend to get better over time

Most people who have had Covid for a long time will see their symptoms resolve or improve over time. But it depends. Symptoms can last for weeks, months, or even years.

Dr Russo says researchers are working hard to fully understand long Covid and to develop diagnostic tests and treatments for it. But, it might take some time.

“It’s a heavy burden, because the mechanisms of Covid are going to be myriad and overlapping for a long time, and it won’t be absolutely straightforward,” he says. “But we will make gains.”

Portrait of Erica Sweeney

Erica Sweeney is a writer who primarily covers health, wellness, and careers. She has written for The New York Times, HuffPost, Teen Vogue, Parade, Money, Business Insider and many more.

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