There are 4 ‘major’ types of long COVID symptoms, study finds

There are four types of long COVID symptoms, according to a study.

There are four types of long COVID symptoms, according to a study.


While the long COVID can manifest in the body in a myriad of ways – proving a challenge for doctors to officially diagnose the disease – new research has categorized four “main” types of symptoms.

Of the four main types of symptoms identified by researchers at Weill Cornell Medicine in New York, they also discovered which appear to be the most prevalent in what they called the largest study to date on the long COVID, it’s that is, when the health problems of the coronavirus persist in the weeks to months after infection.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Medicine in December, provide clues as to how likely each long COVID “subtype” may be.

Review of the health records of 34,605 ​​patients within 30 to 180 days of their confirmed COVID-19 infections revealed more than 137 “persistent COVID-like symptoms” which can be grouped into four categories, according to the research.

The four main types of long COVID symptoms

Diagnosing long COVID can be difficult because “many of its symptoms are similar to those of other illnesses and symptoms,” Dr. Raphael Kellman, an integrative and functional medicine physician in New York who treats post-COVID patients, previously said. at McClatchy News in October.

In the study, Weill Cornell researchers identified these symptoms as the “four main patterns” or clusters of long COVID conditions:

  • Heart, kidney and circulatory problems

  • Breathing problems, anxiety, sleep disturbances and chest pain

  • Musculoskeletal and nervous system problems, including arthritis

  • Digestive and respiratory disorders

This came after patient health records from New York and Florida were analyzed from March 2020 to November 2021, according to the research. A machine learning algorithm was used to identify symptoms.

By studying these records of patients who previously had COVID-19, Dr. Rainu Kaushal, co-lead author of the study, said in a statement that it provides “a window into this condition, allowing us to better characterize the long symptoms of COVID, informing other types of research, including basic discoveries and clinical trials.

How likely is each long COVID subtype?

The most common long COVID symptom cluster, affecting about 34% of the patients studied, was the heart, kidney and circulatory system subtype, according to the research.

Notably, patients with these symptoms were more likely to have an average age of 65 and be male, the statement noted. Additionally, 61% of this group were hospitalized due to their COVID-19 infection and also had pre-existing conditions before falling ill with the virus.

The second most prevalent long COVID category identified was respiratory, sleep, anxiety, headache and chest pain symptoms, according to the study. This cluster of symptoms affected about 33% of patients, especially those considered younger.

The third long subtype of COVID, musculoskeletal and nervous system problems, and the fourth, digestive and respiratory problems, were “less common,” the researchers wrote.

Patients were primarily affected by the second, third and fourth long COVID symptom clusters, according to the statement.

“This gender difference in long-term COVID risk is consistent with previous research, but so far very few studies have even attempted to uncover the mechanisms underlying it,” said Dr. Fei Wang, who led the research and is an associate professor of population health sciences. , said in a statement.

The study aims to help the public, including doctors, better understand long COVID and inform the development of potential treatment regimens for it, according to Wang.

The study authors wrote that one of the strengths of their research is that it was conducted during waves of COVID-19 involving different variants, including the delta variant.

They said a limitation of the work is the observational nature of the research and how it cannot explain why long COVID can manifest in many different ways.

About 1 in 5 adults may develop at least one long-lasting symptom of COVID-19, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention research published in May.

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Julia Marnin is a McClatchy National Real-Time reporter covering the Southeast and Northeast while based in New York. She is an alumnus of the College of New Jersey and joined McClatchy in 2021. Previously she has written for Newsweek, Modern Luxury, Gannett and more.

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