COVID-19 symptoms over time: comparing long-haulers to ME/CFS, by
Leonard A Jason, Mohammed F Islam, Karl Conroy, Joseph Cotler, Chelsea Torres, Mady Johnson in Fatigue: Biomedicine, Health & Behavior 05 May 2021 [doi.org/10.1080/21641846.2021.1922140]
Our objective was to determine which symptoms among long-hauler COVID-19 patients change over time, and how their symptoms compare to another chronic illness group.
278 long-haulers completed two symptom questionnaires at one time point, with one recounting experiences during the first two weeks of their illness, an average of 21.7 weeks prior. We used a comparison group of 502 patients diagnosed with myalgic encephalomyelitis/ chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS). Participants completed a standardized symptom questionnaire and a list of additional CDC COVID-19 symptoms.
Over time, the long-haulers reported an overall reduction of most symptoms including unrefreshing sleep and post-exertional malaise, but an intensification of neurocognitive symptoms. When compared to ME/CFS, the COVID-19 sample was initially more symptomatic for the immune and orthostatic domains but over time, the long-haulers evidenced significantly less severe symptoms than those with ME/CFS, except in the orthostatic domain. Among the COVID-19 long haulers, several neurocognitive symptoms got worse over time, whereas improvements occurred in most other areas.
These types of differential patterns of symptoms over time might contribute to helping better understand the pathophysiology of those reporting prolonged illness following COVID-19.
Health Day: ‘Brain Fog’ Can Linger With Long-Haul COVID, by Cara Murez, 24 May 2021
As researchers work to learn more about COVID-19 and so-called long-haulers, a new study suggests “brain fog” can persist and even worsen for those who were infected months before.
Long-haulers continue to have symptoms long after their COVID diagnosis, and these symptoms can be mental as well as physical.
“People have trouble problem-solving, or they get in the car and forget where they’re supposed to be going,” said study author Leonard Jason, a psychologist at DePaul University in Chicago.
Study Suggests Long COVID is Becoming More Like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (ME/CFS), by Cort Johnson, 17 May 2021
Time will tell how this all plays out, but for right now, except for some cardiovascular symptoms that were expected to be heightened in the COVID-19 group, the long-COVID patients over time are looking more and more like people with ME/CFS. The same general symptom theme – PEM, fatigue, cognitive and sleep problems – is dominant in both diseases. PEM – the distinguishing factor in ME/CFS – is also the most prominent and troublesome factor in long COVID as well.
Some of the early symptoms of long COVID distinguished themselves from those found in the ME/CFS group, but they appeared to be mostly with an ongoing immune response, and most declined substantially over time.
The general merging of the symptoms of long COVID and ME/CFS appeared to be reminiscent of the early ME outbreaks. The outbreaks – which tended to be triggered by different pathogens – featured a disparity in symptoms in the early stages of the illness, which tended to resolve to a similar theme of fatigue, PEM, cognitive problems, etc.
If the long-COVID group does turn out to mimic the ME/CFS group, the long-COVID patients might be able to look forward to some reduction in orthostatic symptoms, but overall, some symptom worsening. On the bright side, while their symptoms may get worse, at least in general, they don’t appear likely to get much worse.