New research suggests Covid-19 may cause long-term symptoms

Some survivors of Covid-19 recover with a clean bill of health. Others might be “long haulers,” a term coined by Natalie Lambert, an associate research professor at Indiana University School of Medicine. Lambert surveyed thousands of long-hauler patients and has found that in some people, Covid-19 leads to waves or patterns of symptoms.

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The study that Lambert has conducted is still in its early stages and hasn’t found its way into medical journals. Early findings, however, which have been shared with news platforms like NBC news, are concerning. According to the research, long haulers exhibit patterns of symptoms typically over a longer time frame.  

At first, the patient might experience typical flu-like symptoms such as fatigue, headache, fever, and chills. Five days later, gastrointestinal symptoms like diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting might follow. These symptoms may then fade, linger, or stop and then remerge as the next wave sets in.

The next wave, typically ten days into the illness, includes the onset of neurologic symptoms like confusion, dizziness and difficulty concentrating. Some patients have reported joint pain, lower back pain, and intense pressure in the brain during this wave.

The third wave of symptoms brings high or low blood pressure, heart palpitations, and a tendency to faint. This is about 15 days into the illness. A week later, patients may experience mouth sores, twitching muscles, eye infections and discoloration, swelling, or rashes on the feet or hands (a skin condition called Covid Toes).

Lambert claims that you can’t identify which patient could be a long hauler. However, her study has earned the respect of her peers in the medical community, many of whom are interested in charting the course of the disease to mitigate future hurdles. Neurologists have claimed that the neurologic symptoms in the survey were consistent with clinical observations of long-haul patients.

In Lamberts’ study, 5,163 long-haulers were contacted online. These patients had either tested positive for the coronavirus or had been diagnosed based on their symptoms and exposure to the virus. Respondents were asked to list their symptoms and how long each set of symptoms persisted. After the 100-odd symptoms were reported, Lambert used the onset of symptoms to identify patterns.