What is long covid and why are its effects different for different individuals? Recovery from COVID is unique for everyone. With a wide array from no symptoms to mild/severe symptoms that can lead to an easier recovery of quickness and completion to a long recovery with lasting symptoms. April 2022 reports started to come in that previously healthy patients who were infected with SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes COVID-19, were experiencing lasting and some have debilitating symptoms that were causing them not to make a full recovery from the infection. Symptoms can last for weeks or even months after COVID infection. They can range from relatively mild to severe, and they can change, disappear, and reappear over time.
General symptoms such as:
Joint or muscle pain
Breathing and heart-related symptoms such as:
Neurological symptoms (related to the brain and nervous system) such as:
Digestive symptoms such as:
What causes long COVID?
It’s not clear what specifically is the cause of long COVID, but researchers have discovered a few clues that could shed light on this puzzling condition. One clue is the way that different people’s immune systems react to COVID-19 infection. Research is showing that people with the most severe COVID-19 symptoms and people with long COVID are more prone to have higher levels of damaging antibodies called “autoantibodies.” Autoantibodies are proteins in the immune system that attack and damage healthy tissue and are involved in many autoimmune diseases. There may be numerous causes of long COVID, which could help explain the wide scale of symptoms. Some of the current theories are:
Who can get it?
People who have had severe cases of COVID-19 seem more likely to get long COVID.
Some people with long COVID didn’t have any symptoms from COVID-19 or only had mild or moderate symptoms.
Other groups who may be at greater risk include women, African Americans, people who had specific health issues before getting COVID-19, and people who did not get a COVID-19 vaccine.
Anyone who has had COVID is susceptible to long COVID.
How is it diagnosed and treated?
If you know you’ve had COVID-19 in the past, you and your doctor can work together to rule out other potential causes for your symptoms.
Want to get involved?
There are lots of ways you can contribute to long COVID research:
Connect with the RECOVER Initiative
Learn about patient-led research
Join a clinical trial
Join a study at the NIH Clinical Center
National Library of Medicine, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases August 24, 2022.