Women are more likely than men to develop long COVID, study finds

Women are more likely than men to develop long COVID, study finds

Women are significantly more likely than men to experience long-term symptoms of COVID-19, a new review suggests.

Johnson researchers & Johnson’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer for Women’s Health analyzed data from studies involving 1.3 million patients.

The results, published Tuesday in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, showed that women are 22% more likely to develop prolonged COVID than men.

“Knowledge about the fundamental sex differences… of COVID-19 is crucial for the identification… of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive of and sensitive to the potential differential treatment needs of both sexes,” they said. the authors in a press release.

Long-term COVID occurs when patients who have cleared the infection still have symptoms that last more than four weeks after recovery. In some cases, these symptoms can persist for months or even years.

Patients may experience a variety of persistent symptoms including fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, mental confusion, joint and muscle pain, and ongoing loss of taste and smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. of Diseases.

Tiffany Patino, who battled long-standing COVID symptoms for a year, rests in bed in the afternoon in Rockville, Maryland on December 2, 2021.

The Washington Post via Getty Images, FILE

It’s not clear what causes people to develop COVID for a long time, but there are several theories among experts, including the virus persisting in the body, damage to nerve pathways caused by the virus, and the immune system remaining active after infection. infection.

The study found that the most common symptoms for women within four weeks of testing included ear, nose, and throat (ENT) problems; muscle aches and pain; shortness of breath and psychiatric or mood disorders such as depression.

Meanwhile, men were more likely to have kidney disorders such as acute kidney injury.

Not only were symptoms during COVID-19 infection different between men and women, but symptoms were also different after prolonged COVID development.

For women, they had higher rates of long-term symptoms, including fatigue; ENT; gastrointestinal; neurological; skin and psychiatric and/or mood disorders.

Women were at least twice as likely to have long-term ENT symptoms and 60% more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms.

On the other hand, men had higher rates of kidney and endocrine disorders, including diabetes.

Several studies in the past have looked at differences in hospitalization, ICU admission, and death from COVID-19 broken down by sex.

But the researchers noted that of more than 600,000 articles analyzed for this study, published between December 2019 and June 2021, only 35 provided data on COVID-19 symptoms and side effects in enough detail to understand how men and women may experience the disease differently.

“Unfortunately, most studies did not assess and report granular data by gender, limiting gender-specific clinical insights that may affect treatment,” they wrote.

It’s not clear why women are more susceptible to prolonged COVID than men, but the authors said it could be due to differences in the way women’s immune systems respond to infection compared to men’s. .

“Women develop faster and more robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which may protect them from initial infection and severity,” they wrote. “However, this same difference may make women more vulnerable to long-term autoimmune disease.”

In addition, the team said that women may be at higher risk of COVID-19 because certain professions, such as nursing and education, are largely made up of women, which could, in turn, make them more likely to develop a prolonged COVID.

Furthermore, “there may be disparities in access to care based on gender that could affect the natural history of the disease, leading to more complications and [aftereffects]”, the authors wrote in the statement.

The team said they hope more researchers will include detailed data on the symptoms and effects of COVID-19 disaggregated by sex in their studies to further study how men and women are affected differently and whether treatments are needed. different.

The authors did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.

Dr. Roberto Herrera contributed to this report.

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