As long COVID research continues to gain steam, scientists unearthed more shocking information about the condition. Among them is the idea that women are significantly more likely to develop long-term COVID-19 symptoms than men.
After analyzing data from more than 1.3 million patients, researchers from Johnson & Johnson’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer for Women’s Health reported that female patients are about 22% more likely to develop long COVID than males.
“Knowledge about fundamental sex differences underpinning the clinical manifestations, disease progression, and health outcomes of COVID-19 is crucial for the identification and rational design of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive of and sensitive to the potential differential treatment needs of both sexes,” the team said in a press release.
The study authors observed that female patients with long COVID suffered various symptoms, including ear, nose, and throat issues; fatigue and disorders affecting the skin, mood, and the brain. They also experienced gastrointestinal and rheumatological problems.
“Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in Long COVID syndrome. Females mount more rapid and robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity. However, this same difference can render females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune-related diseases,” the researchers explained.
Long COVID or post-COVID syndrome refers to the symptoms that persist even after the viral infection. Based on what the medical community noticed after monitoring COVID-19 patients, long COVID can last more than four weeks after recovering. In other cases, the symptoms could remain for months or years.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) indicated that post-COVID conditions are found more often in people who had severe COVID-19 illness. The public health agency said the most common symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, muscle and joint pain, difficulty breathing, continued loss of taste and smell, headaches and brain fog.
The researchers said that even though the medical community anticipated the differences in outcomes between female and male COVID-19 patients, previous studies did not evaluate their collected data by sex. This led to a lack of sex-specific insights that may come handy when determining treatment for COVID-19.
Contrary to the health problems reported among female patients, the males were more likely to experience endocrine disorders, including kidney disorders and diabetes.
The team presented their findings in a study published Tuesday in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion.