12 common long COVID symptoms: Mass General, NIH

Somerville, Mass.-based Mass General Brigham partnered with the National Institutes of Health to conduct a study of nearly 10,000 adults in an effort to standardize a research framework for long COVID-19, according to a May 25 news release. 

While vast research advancements have been done studying COVID-19, fewer have focused on long COVID and untangling the myriad symptoms that surround the condition which affects about 10 percent of individuals who have been infected with the virus. 

Last spring, the Biden administration called for additional research efforts to focus on defining long COVID cases. Even still, there are so many nuances about the condition that have left researchers at odds with one another, according to the release.

But Mass General's work alongside the NIH has identified steps toward creating a solid foundation from which to start and hopefully further other research efforts. From the study, which surveyed 9,500 individuals across 33 states, asked patients who were six months past an initial COVID-19 diagnosis to describe the severity of 37 associated symptoms. 

Out of that came 12 key symptoms that researchers called the "hallmark" of long COVID. Using that information they generated an algorithm to evaluate the severity of these 12 main symptoms to give a PASC (post-acute sequelae of COVID-19) score. 

"Now that we’re able to identify people with long COVID, we can begin doing more in-depth studies to understand the biological mechanisms at play,” Andrea Foulkes, ScD, a principal investigator of the NIH initiative, director of biostatistics at Massachusetts General Hospital and coauthor of the research said in a statement. "One of the big takeaways from this study is the heterogeneity of long COVID: long COVID is not just one syndrome; it’s a syndrome of syndromes."

The 12 key symptoms researchers identified include:

  • Postexertional malaise

  • Debilitating fatigue

  • Loss of or change in smell or taste 

  • Dizziness 

  • Brain fog 

  • Gastrointestinal symptoms 

  • Palpitations

  • Chronic cough

  • Changes in sexual desire or capacity

  • Thirst

  • Chest pain

  • Abnormal movements

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