Diabetes & metabolic syndrome. 2021;15(3):869-875
Plain language summary
SARS-CoV-2 infection (COVID-19) is a major pandemic resulting in considerable mortality and morbidity worldwide. For some people who recover from COVID-19, symptoms persist or new ones develop for weeks or months after infection despite testing PCR negative. This is termed long-COVID or post-COVID syndrome and divided into two stages: post-acute-COVID with symptoms extending beyond three weeks, and chronic-COVID with symptoms extending beyond 12 weeks. Factors that increase the risk for long-COVID include being female, age, having more than five symptoms in the acute stage of infection and pre-existing health conditions. A mild disease course is not exclusive to long-COVID. Typically affected by long-COVID are the pulmonary or cardiovascular system, with neuropsychiatric presentations also being reported. Common symptoms are one or more of the following such as fatigue, breathlessness, cough, chest pain, heart racing, headache, joint pain, muscle pain and weakness, insomnia, pins and needles, diarrhoea, rash, hair loss, impaired balance, neurocognitive issues. Due to the novelty of the virus, the underline pathophysiology of long-COVID still requires further investigation. Contributing factors mentioned include: compromised body functions after illness and inactivity, organ damage, persistent inflammation, altered immune response and auto-antibody generation and viral persistence. The impact of medication, treatments, hospitalisation or associated post-traumatic stress is also urged to be accounted for. Diagnosis of long-COVID is made by thorough history taking, clinical examination and the exclusion of other conditions. For the management of long-COVID, the authors in this review suggest the sub-categorisation depending on the body system most affected to optimize treatment options. Furthermore, it is encouraged that medical treatment should also consider the monitoring for worsening of any pre-existing health conditions post-infection. This review yields a informative summary of the definition, symptom presentations, risk factors, diagnosis and medical treatment options relating to long-COVID.