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Hair loss and reduced sex drive added to list of long Covid symptoms

The condition has divided opinion, with experts disputing the definitive list of symptoms and infection timeframe

The challenge of long-Covid is a major one for the health service

Joe PinkstoneUK Independent

Hair loss and low sex drive have been added to the list of long Covid symptoms in a study, taking the total to 62.

The condition has divided opinion, with experts disputing the definitive list of symptoms and a timeframe for how long post-infection the condition can be said to last.

Loss of smell, shortness of breath and chest pain were the most common long Covid symptoms in the study, as was amnesia, an inability to perform familiar movements and hallucinations.

Patients were found to fit into one of three categories depending on their symptoms: respiratory problems, mental health or cognitive issues.

The study suggests that women, younger people, and those belonging to a black, mixed or other ethnic group are at greater risk of developing long Covid.

Additionally, those from poorer backgrounds, smokers, people who are overweight or obese, as well as the presence of a wide range of health conditions were associated with reporting persistent symptoms. Researchers from the University of Birmingham looked at the symptoms reported by people who had new health concerns more than three months after catching Covid.

Senior author Dr Shamil Haroon, an associate clinical professor in public health, led the project in which his team analysed anonymous electronic health records of 2.4 million people in the UK, gathered between January 2020 and April 2021.

Almost half a million had been infected with the virus. Their general health was compared with that of those who had not had Covid.

People who tested positive for the virus reported 62 symptoms much more frequently 12 weeks after initial infection than those who had not contracted the virus, the study found.

The researchers also calculated that those with Covid were 6.5 times more at risk of anosmia 12 weeks after catching the virus than those who were not infected.

The risk was four times greater for hair loss, 2.6 times for ejaculation difficulty, 2.4 times for low libido and 1.8-fold for a hoarse voice.

"This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policy makers throughout the pandemic - that the symptoms of long Covid are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions," Dr Haroon said.

"The symptoms we identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers to improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects from Covid-19, and to subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed."

Anuradhaa Subramanian, a researcher at the University of Birmingham and lead author of the paper, published in Nature Medicine, said: "Our data analysis of risk factors are of particular interest because it helps us to consider what could potentially be causing or contributing to long Covid.

"These observations will help to narrow the focus on what may be causing these symptoms, and how we can help."

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