New research indicates that ‘long Covid’ could be a debilitating mixture of four syndromes attacking the body at the same time.
A study by the UK's National Institute for Health Research warns of the crippling psychological and physical impact on people living with the long-term consequences of the coronavirus.
Long Covid is the term used to describe a growing number of people who may have initially suffered mild illness, only to struggle with the lingering effects of Covid-19 for months after they seemingly recovered from the virus.
Based on interviews with 14 members of a long Covid support group on Facebook, the study found a “rollercoaster of symptoms.”
Researchers said this may be due to four syndromes, those being permanent organ damage to the lungs and heart, experience of post-viral fatigue, post intensive care syndrome and a continuation of Covid-19 symptoms.
Patients studied described it as a ‘Covid tunnel’ even seven months later and appealed for support.
Themes that emerged from the discussion were that patients were
often doubted and not treated.
Elaine Maxwell, author of the review, said some patients experienced "floating symptoms" that moved around the body.
"The list of symptoms is huge and covers every part of the body and brain,” she said.
"People without a clear diagnosis told us they are often not believed by health services.”
Months after recovering from the virus, patients detailed brain fog and chronic fatigue that affected their heart, breathing, kidneys, gut, liver and skin.
Ms Maxwell said it was wrong to assume that those critically ill with Covid-19 would be the worst affected.
"There are people who never had any support in hospital, never had a test, have no record of ever having had Covid except their own personal history. They may be suffering far more than somebody who is ventilated for 21 days,” she said.
An opera singer, Lee, said he was unwell with cough, fever and cold in February due to Covid-19.
Weeks later he suffered exhaustion, spoke of strange taste and brain fog.
From walking more than six miles daily, he struggled to walk to the end of a street.
The power and quality of his singing remained but he could not keep up with conversations and online meetings.
“Slowly, after nearly six months I am slowly beginning to see more ‘normal’ days but as soon as I begin to feel better, the cycle starts again,” he said.
The report said thousands could be living with long Covid, with children also at risk.
Other research has uncovered the threat from long Covid.
A study published in Italy showed nine in ten patients who required hospital care had experienced after-effects two months on.
Another study in France adds to evidence that a portion of the 38 million people infected with the Sars-CoV-2 virus worldwide will suffer lingering effects.
The UK report calls for support from the community and healthcare centres.
It said the disease would likely have a disproportionate effect on groups such as black, Asians, people with mental health problems or learning difficulties.
“We hope this review will be useful to the public, health and social care professionals, researchers, service providers and policy makers and lead to better understanding of the issues around living with Covid19," the report said.
Researchers took the decision to release findings despite the small amount of published evidence due to the importance of the subject and the need for people to receive care.
Last month, The National spoke to a number of UAE residents battling the ill-effects of long Covid, who described a variety of symptoms, from bouts of dizziness and chronic headaches to pain in the chest and joints.