Women are more likely to have long COVID symptoms

Woman on couch feeling ill.
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Data released this week by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates one in 13 U.S. adults experience continuing “long COVID” symptoms. Further research published this week indicates women are more likely to have those symptoms following COVID-19 infection.

According to a study of medical literature published Monday in the Current Medical Research and Opinion Journal, all nine studies reviewed by researchers showed that women were more likely to have long COVID syndrome than men. CDC data backs up the study, and indicates women are around 4% more likely to develop the syndrome.

This syndrome can include “a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems that people experience after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19,” said the CDC.

Some of the most common of the wide-ranging symptoms associated with long COVID are: fatigue, fever, respiratory problems, heart problems, difficulty breathing, shortness of breath, coughing, chest pain, heart palpitations, neurological symptoms, brain fog, headache, sleep problems, lightheadedness, pins and needles, smell and taste changes, depression, anxiety, digestive symptoms, diarrhea, stomach pain, joint or muscle pain, rashes and changes in menstrual cycles.

In addition to having a greater overall likelihood of developing long COVID, the study found that women were also more likely to develop psychiatric/mood, musculoskeletal and respiratory symptoms from COVID-19 infection. On the other hand, men were more likely to have renal symptoms, researchers said.

“Our literature reviews of early, published research uncovered differences between sexes on early sequelae of COVID-19 and on long COVID syndrome, suggesting the opportunity to develop and implement prevention and treatment interventions tailored to each sex. In doing so, there is the potential to reshape the natural history of COVID-19,” said the study.
Researchers suggest further sex-based research regarding COVID-19 symptoms.

According to the CDC, more than 40% of U.S. adults have had COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic and 19% of those adults have long COVID.

Younger adults are more likely to develop the condition than older adults, bisexual and transgender adults are more likely to develop long COVID compared to people of other sexual orientations and cisgender people, and Hispanic adults have higher rates of long COVID than other demographic groups, per CDC data.

States with the highest rates of long COVID are Kentucky Alabama Tennessee and South Dakota. States with the lowest percentage of adults who currently have long COVID symptoms are Hawaii, Maryland and Virginia.

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