AARP Eye Center
Millions of people who have had COVID-19 find themselves suffering from a host of debilitating symptoms that can persist for weeks or even months after their initial coronavirus infection fades.
This phenomenon, dubbed long COVID, has puzzled experts since near the start of the pandemic. And while research is starting to come up with some answers, Greg Vanichkachorn with Mayo Clinic says, “we don’t really have [long COVID] nailed down yet.” A big reason is because “it looks like more and more symptoms can be associated with this condition,” says Vanichkachorn, M.D., an occupational and aerospace medicine specialist and medical director of Mayo Clinic’s COVID Activity Rehabilitation Program.
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In fact, the list of the most commonly reported long COVID symptoms maintained by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) includes nearly 20, ranging from neurological complications to digestive disorders. Some studies have uncovered more than 50 long-term effects of COVID-19, adding issues such as hair loss and vision loss to the mix. Others estimate that number is much higher — closer to 200.
Still, some of these symptoms seem to be more prevalent. Fatigue is the most common complaint that Vanichkachorn sees among his long COVID patients. “And that’s often coupled with some breathing problems, either coughing or shortness of breath,” he adds. Almost equal to that are patients coming in with neurological issues — headaches, tingling or numbness in the arms and legs, ringing in the ears, changes in their vision, “as well as a lot of trouble with thinking,” Vanichkachorn says.
Research conducted by AARP reveals a similar lineup when it comes to adults 50 and older who have battled lingering effects of COVID-19. Fatigue (57 percent), cough (34 percent) and cognitive problems like brain fog (31 percent) topped the list among a nationally represented sample that was surveyed. Shortness of breath (26 percent) and difficulty concentrating (25 percent) round out the top five.
Most Common Long COVID Symptoms
People with long COVID can experience a range of symptoms. Here are the most commonly reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:
- Tiredness or fatigue that interferes with daily life
- Symptoms that get worse after physical or mental effort
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Chest pain
- Fast-beating or pounding heart (heart palpitations)
- Difficulty thinking or concentrating (“brain fog”)
- Sleep problems
- Dizziness or lightheadedness when you stand up
- Pins-and-needles feelings
- Change in smell or taste
- Depression or anxiety
- Stomach pain
- Joint or muscle pain
- Changes in menstrual cycles