Research concludes that hair loss and sexual dysfunction are among the potential long-term effects of Covid-19
Hair loss, reduced libido and sexual dysfunction are among a wide range of symptoms that can follow a Covid-19 infection, a new study released on Monday suggests.
According to a peer-reviewed study in the Nature Medicine journal, the most common long Covid symptoms include loss of smell, fatigue and shortness of breath. However, hair growth and libido can also be impaired, among other previously unrecognized symptoms.
“We explored the effect of Covid-19 on 115 symptoms of which we found 62 symptoms to be statistically significantly associated with Covid-19 at 12 weeks [or more] after infection,” Anuradhaa Subramanian at the University of Birmingham in the UK, the lead author of the paper, told New Scientist.
“Some of these new symptoms, like reduced libido, sexual dysfunction and hair loss, are really new. They had not been attributed to Covid-19 in the longer term before,” she added.
The study analyzed the health records of 2.4 million people across the UK, comparing almost 500,000 patients who had contracted the virus with around 1.9 million who had not tested positive. The researchers also used the data of patients who had not been admitted to hospital.
For now, it is unclear how exactly the illness may lead to hair loss, although it’s known that the condition can be triggered by other infections or stress. The problems with sexual function can apparently include ejaculation difficulties.
“People with other chronic illnesses frequently experience sexual dysfunction and we find the same with Covid-19, suggesting Covid-19 is a chronic illness,” Dr Shamil Haroon, the study’s co-author and associate clinical professor in public health at the University of Birmingham, told New Scientist.
The identified symptoms spanned multiple organ systems and could generally be split into three categories: respiratory, including coughing and shortness of breath; mental health and cognitive problems such as anxiety, depression and brain fog; and a wider range of symptoms including pain, fatigue and rashes.
In addition to identifying new health problems linked to long Covid, researchers also outlined the groups that are most likely to suffer from the disease in the long term. They include women and people of African ascent, as well as some other ethnic groups. People from poorer backgrounds, smokers, and overweight sufferers also run a higher risk of long Covid.
“This research validates what patients have been telling clinicians and policymakers throughout the pandemic – that the symptoms of long Covid are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions,” Haroon concluded.