The report “drives home the point that long Covid can affect nearly every organ system,” said Dr. Ziyad Al-Aly, chief of the research and development service at the VA St. Louis Health Care System, who was not involved in the new study.
“Some of these manifestations are chronic conditions that will last a lifetime and will forever scar some individuals and families,” added Dr. Al-Aly, who was an author of a large study published in April of lingering symptoms in Covid patients in the Department of Veterans Affairs health system.
In the new study, the most common issue for which patients sought medical care was pain — including nerve inflammation and aches and pains associated with nerves and muscles — which was reported by more than 5 percent of patients or nearly 100,000 people, more than a fifth of those who reported post-Covid problems. Breathing difficulties, including shortness of breath, were experienced by 3.5 percent of post-Covid patients.
Nearly 3 percent of patients sought treatment for symptoms that were labeled with diagnostic codes for malaise and fatigue, a far-reaching category that could include issues like brain fog and exhaustion that gets worse after physical or mental activity — effects that have been reported by many people with long Covid.
Other new issues for patients, especially adults in their 40s and 50s, included high cholesterol, diagnosed in 3 percent of all post-Covid patients, and high blood pressure, diagnosed in 2.4 percent, the report said. Dr. Al-Aly said such health conditions, which have not been commonly considered aftereffects of the virus, make it “increasingly clear that post-Covid or long Covid has a metabolic signature marked by derangements in the metabolic machinery.”
Relatively few deaths — 594 — occurred 30 days or more post-Covid, and most were among people who had been hospitalized for their coronavirus infection, the report found.
The study, like many involving electronic records, only addressed some aspects of the post-Covid landscape. It did not say when patients’ symptoms arose or how long the problems persisted, and it did not evaluate exactly when after infection patients sought help from doctors, only that it was 30 days or more.