Nearly 60% of patients with long COVID had organ impairment a year after catching the sometimes deadly disease, according to a new study released Tuesday by the Journal of the Royal Society of Medicine.
Researchers in London studied 536 long COVID patients, just 13% of whom were first hospitalized with COVID. Six months after being diagnosed with COVID, the majority (62%), were diagnosed with organ impairment. A year later, the great majority nearly 60% of all long COVID patients studied were still experiencing organ impairment. Furthermore, more than a quarter had impairment in two or more organs.
Long COVID symptoms appeared to be connected with being young, female and having a single-organ impairment, according to Amitava Banerjee, professor of clinical data science at the University College London Institute of Health Informatics, who led the study.
“Several studies confirm the persistence of symptoms in individuals with long COVID up to one year,” Banerjee said. “We now add that three in five people with long COVID have impairment in at least one organ, and one in four have impairment in two or more organs—in some cases without symptoms.”
Even after completing blood tests and MRIs, the researchers were unable to pinpoint exactly what about the COVID virus was causing long COVID symptoms. There are currently no official diagnostic criteria for extended COVID. Even the definition of the condition differs depending on who you ask, but it’s typically thought to consist of new symptoms that arise during or after a COVID infection and last for weeks or months.
Experts claim that with over 200 symptoms recorded, ranging from lingering cough and fatigue to ear numbness and a sense of “brain on fire,” long COVID is clearly more than one condition.
Some believe that true long COVID is best defined as a chronic-fatigue-syndrome-like disorder that develops after a COVID infection, similar to other post-viral syndromes that may occur after herpes, Lyme disease, and Ebola infections, among others.
Some specialists believe that further post-COVID consequences, such as organ damage, should not be classified as lengthy COVID and should instead be classified as PASC. The term “post-acute sequelae of COVID-19” refers to a wide range of COVID consequences, including persistent fatigue-like symptoms and later heart disease, as well as long-term lung damage and strange new symptoms such as urine incontinence, itching, and skin lesions.
According to a Jan. 26 report by the Kaiser Family Foundation, using data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 15% of U.S. adults reported having long COVID symptoms at some point during the pandemic as of Jan. 16, and 6% reported lingering symptoms.
According to the survey, the percentage of Americans who have had COVID and still have long-term COVID symptoms fell from 19% in June to 11% in January.