It has been more than two years since COVID-19 flipped the world upside down. While society has found ways to keep moving, many people who have been infected by COVID are not able to keep living the same lifestyle they had before. Today, approximately 1 in 5 adults have a health condition that might be related to their previous COVID-19 illness.
Long COVID is new, so doctors and researchers are working quickly to get information and answers for patients, but a lot remains unknown. If you've had COVID and continue to experience symptoms, or you're still not feeling quite like yourself, you may have long COVID. Here's what we know right now about long COVID symptoms:
What are the common symptoms of long COVID?
There are many symptoms of long COVID. The most common physical symptoms are:
Fatigue (13 to 87 percent of long COVID patients)
Dyspnea (10 to 71 percent of long COVID patients)
Chest pain or tightness (12 to 44 percent of long COVID patients)
Cough (17 to 34 percent of long COVID patients)
Altered taste or smell
Other symptoms include:
Difficulty thinking or concentrating (sometimes referred to as “brain fog”)
Dizziness when you stand up (lightheadedness)
Joint or muscle pain
Changes in menstrual cycles
Can long COVID be diagnosed based on these symptoms?
Yes, long Covid can be officially diagnosed. The ICD-10 code is U09.9. Currently, long COVID symptoms need to have a medical workup completed to ensure the patient is not suffering from another condition. If there is nothing found in the workup and the patient had a positive COVID test or a high suspicion for COVID infection, the long COVID code can be used.
How do I know if I have long COVID symptoms?
In the U.S. alone, roughly one in five adults with a known previous case of COVID-19 currently has long COVID symptoms, according to recent data from the National Center for Health Statistics. Others could be living with the condition without realizing it. Being aware of how your body feels, tracking improvement or worsening symptoms and talking with your primary care doctor can help you determine a diagnosis.
Do long COVID symptoms stick around right after I have COVID-19?
Long COVID symptoms are not necessarily a continuation of the issues people experience right after getting sick, like coughing or fever. While that is the case for some people, others may develop new symptoms that show up weeks later.
“It is commonly more than one symptom and commonly more than one system in the body,” said Nisreen Alwan in a recent Time article. She is an associate professor in public health at the U.K.’s University of Southampton who has had long COVID herself.
What does it mean to have 'fatigue' or 'brain fog'?
These symptoms are often oversimplified. Many long haulers are explaining that they feel a crash after physical activity or cognitive dysfunction such as memory loss.
And on the other hand, many people believe that they don't have long COVID because it's not a dire situation, as is often portrayed in the media. Long COVID fatigue can feel like being constantly tired or weak both physically and mentally.
Brain fog is characterized by confusion, forgetfulness, and a lack of focus and mental clarity. Many people may write these types of symptoms off as something else or caused by other factors in their life, when in fact, it's often a result of COVID-19.
How long do COVID-19 symptoms last?
According to the CDC, people with long-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again. with long-COVID conditions can have a wide range of symptoms that can last more than four weeks or even months after infection. Sometimes the symptoms can even go away or come back again.
Long-COVID conditions may not affect everyone the same way. People with post-COVID conditions may experience health problems from different types and combinations of symptoms happening over different lengths of time. Most patients’ symptoms slowly improve with time. However, for some people, long-COVID conditions may last months, and potentially years, after COVID-19 illness and may sometimes result in disability.
How can I get long COVID support?
Long Covid is still being researched and hopefully we will understand it more soon. You can talk to your primary care provider about additional support options.
It is important not to just “write off” your symptoms to long COVID without a proper medical workup. Please visit your primary care provider to make sure your symptoms have had the proper attention.
Remember that you're not alone. Many people are experiencing the symptoms of long COVID, and there are doctors and support groups who will help you. If you suspect you might have long COVID, reach out to your primary care doctor and loved ones as you navigate these symptoms.