New research looked at the impact of long Covid on 3,754 people with the illness (Picture: Getty)
People living with long Covid are suffering effects similar to that of Parkinson’s disease and worse than some cancers, a study has found.
New research looked at the lives of 3,754 who were referred to a clinic for the illness to see how people’s daily lives were impacted.
Patients were asked to answer questions on an app, giving a score of between 0 and 40 to indicate severity.
Average fatigue scores were similar or worse than for patients with cancer-related anemia, or severe kidney disease, and quality of life scores were also lower than those with advanced cancers.
The study also found that the impact of long Covid on the daily activities of patients is worse than that for stroke patients and was comparable to that of patients with Parkinson’s disease.
The research was conducted by the University College London (UCL) and the University of Exeter.
Co-leader Dr Henry Goodfellow, of the UCL’s Institute of Epidemiology and Health, said the impact of the condition is still not fully understood.
Loss of smell is one of the main markers of long Covid (Picture: Getty)
‘Our results have found that long Covid can have a devastating effect on the lives of patients – with fatigue having the biggest impact on everything from social activities to work, chores and maintaining close relationships,’ he added.
He went on to describe a ‘significant economic and social impact’ on those living with long Covid.
Some 94% of the people involved in the study were of working age (18-65) and more than half of them (51%) said they had been unable to work for at least one day in the previous month.
Dr Goodfellow said: ‘We hope that a greater understanding of the symptoms and impact of long Covid in these patients will help the NHS and policymakers to target limited resources by adapting existing services and designing new ones to better meet the needs of patients with long Covid.
‘Our findings show that fatigue should be an important focus for clinical care and the design of rehabilitation services.
‘Post-Covid assessment services should consider focusing on assessing and treating fatigue to maximise the recovery and return to work for sufferers of long Covid.’
Co-author Professor William Henley, of the University of Exeter Medical School, said: ‘We urgently need more research to enable the development of evidence-based services to support people trying to manage this debilitating new condition.’
At the end of last year, the news team spoke to several long Covid sufferers who opened up about their experiences.
Some said they were ‘continually besieged by little infections’ and tiredness, while one patient has found her experience so awful that she does not want to relive the trauma by discussing it.
Nic Mitchell, who first got symptoms on Christmas Day 2019, told how she ‘aged 20 years’ in her first 18 months living with the illness.
Nic first got symptoms on Christmas Day 2019
She was so sick, it took her a year and a half to be able to take her dogs around the park.
In March this year, 19-year-old Jasmine Laws wrote about the last two years she has had to endure with long Covid.
She said: ‘In the months following my positive Covid result, a normal day for me would be my heart frantically pounding after any flight of stairs or walking up a slight incline – even just standing up could bring it on too.
‘Extreme fatigue resulted in words blurring as my vision would erratically lose focus and become double. Ringing in my ears would dull my hearing.
‘By the end of every day, I would feel utterly depleted, even if I spent it trying to work from my bed. ‘
Jasmine had to do six months of NHS rehabilitation, with fortnightly appointments in the hospital (Picture: Jasmine Laws)
Jasmine was eventually diagnosed with long Covid and referred to a clinic where she underwent six months of rehabilitation to ‘literally be taught how to breathe again’.
She has since improved, but stills struggles with symptoms such as chronic fatigue.
‘I can’t be as sporty, social and busy as I’d like to be as a 21-year-old, but I have learnt how to live in my new state of reality,’ Jasmine added.
To be referred to a long Covid clinic, people must have continued symptoms 12 weeks after an acute coronavirus infection.
According to the NHS, the main markers of long Covid include extreme tiredness, shortness of breath, a loss of smell, and muscle aches.
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Fatigue scores for people with long Covid were worse than patients with cancer-related anaemia.