Hair loss and lower sex drive are symptoms of Long Covid, University of Birmingham study says

ITV News Digital Video Producer George Hancorn explains the latest Long Covid symptoms revealed by University of Birmingham

New symptoms like hair loss and a lower sex drive join shortness of breath and chest pain as signs of Long Covid, according to a new study.

Research by the University of Birmingham has found more Covid-19 symptoms are prevalent weeks after contracting the virus than previously thought.

The new signs could mean more people who previously tested positive for the virus and have continual symptoms at least 12 weeks after initial infection suffer from Long Covid.

The University of Birmingham analysed anonymous electronic health records of over two million people in the UK to identify what symptoms health officials should look out for and how to treat them.

Using non-hospitalised patients only, a team of researchers and clinicians were able to identify three categories of symptoms reported by people with persistent health problems after infection.

Groups included respiratory symptoms, mental health and cognitive problems, and then broader symptoms.

The research found well-known signs of the infection like shortness of breath remained prevalent in Long Covid but symptoms such as a lack of sex drive or bowel problems were predominantly new.

What are the common signs and symptoms of Long Covid?

The University of Birmingham recognises the following as common symptoms of Long Covid.

  • Anosmia (loss of sense of smell)

  • Shortness of breath

  • Chest pain

  • Fever

  • Headaches

  • Cough

  • Fatigue 

  • Brain fog

They have now established other signs include:

  • Nausea and vomiting

  • Anhedonia (lack of enjoyment)

  • Bowel incontinence

  • Erectile dysfunction/loss of libido

  • Limb swelling

Women and young people are more likely to suffer from long covid Credit: PA Images

Dr Shamil Haroon, Associate Clinical Professor in Public Health at the University of Birmingham, led the study.

He said the research confirms the concerns of patients who have noticed a continual range of symptoms which affect their health weeks after contracting the virus.

"The symptoms of Long Covid are extremely broad and cannot be fully accounted for by other factors such as lifestyle risk factors or chronic health conditions.”

"The symptoms we identified should help clinicians and clinical guideline developers to improve the assessment of patients with long-term effects from Covid-19, and to subsequently consider how this symptom burden can be best managed."

The University of Birmingham also found certain demographics were more likely to develop Long Covid.

The study suggested females, younger people or people from a black, mixed or other ethnic group are at greater risk.

People who smoke, are overweight or obese, and suffer from pre-existing health conditions are also likely to experience persistent symptoms.

Anuradhaa Subramanian, Research Fellow at the Institute of Applied Health Research, University of Birmingham says, the "risk factors are of particular interest because it helps us to consider what could potentially be causing or contributing to Long Covid."

"We already know that certain modifiable traits such as smoking and obesity put people at increased risk of various diseases and conditions, including Long Covid.

"However, others such as biological sex and ethnicity also appear to be important."

"These observations will help to further narrow the focus on factors to investigate what may be causing these persistent symptoms after an infection, and how we can help patients who are experiencing them.”