As Covid-19 is a new virus, scientists are still discovering some of the long-term effects it can cause to those who have been infected.
Until recently, it was thought that the virus would simply cause flu-like symptoms that would pass with rest, or the infection would be fatal.
However, eight months on since the virus emerged, it has become apparent that it can result in more severe effects that can be long-lasting.
What is Long covid?
“Long covid” is a term that is being used to describe those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection, but are still experiencing some lasting effects, or the usual symptoms have lasted far longer than normally expected.
Most people who have tested positive for coronavirus, and did not require treatment in intensive care, typically recover from the virus within three weeks.
However, an estimated 10 per cent of people remain unwell beyond this period, while a smaller proportion can experience symptoms for months, according to a study by King’s College.
The study found that some 250,000 people in the UK alone are thought to suffer symptoms for 30 days or more.
In many cases, people who suffered with long-lasting effects of the virus were fit, active and healthy.
Scientists have not yet discovered why some people’s recovery from coronavirus is more prolonged, but a weak or absent antibody response, reinfection, inflammatory or other immune reactions, or mental factors, such as post-traumatic stress, could all be contributing factors, the British Medical Journal suggests.
Long-term respiratory, musculoskeletal, and neuropsychiatric sequelae have all been described as symptoms of other coronaviruses, such as SARS and MERS, and these have parallels with some of the effects of long covid.
What are the long-term symptoms?
Typically, the most common symptoms of coronavirus include a cough, high temperature or fever, or loss of taste or smell, but these usually don’t last more than three weeks.
The long-term symptoms that some people experience often vary widely and encompass both physical and neurological effects, with these lasting into weeks and even months in some cases.
Sufferers have reported a vast spectrum of effects, including:
- Severe fatigue
- Chest pain
- Muscle aches and weakness
- Joint pain
- Skin rashes
- Neurocognitive disorders, such as memory loss and lack of concentration
- Depression and other mental health problems
- Digestive problems
- Hair loss
Many coronavirus sufferers have reported experiencing hair loss, with a recent study at the Indiana University School of Medicine identifying it as a potential long-term term symptom.
Dr Natalie Lambert, who conducted the study, said that nearly a third of 1,500 participants reported hair loss as a symptom, while others reported suffering with severe nerve pain, difficulty concentrating and sleeping, and blurry vision.
However, this is the results of just one study and more are needed to identify a clear link between coronavirus and hair loss.
Currently, hair loss is not listed as a symptom of coronavirus by the World Health Organisation or the NHS.
While many coronavirus survivors have experienced hair loss after recovering, this could be due to the psychological effects of contracting the disease.
Some experts have also said that suffering from coronavirus could trigger the stress hormone cortisol to be released, which can signal the hair follicles to shift from the growth phase into a transition phase and result in your hair falling out.