Long-term COVID symptoms are more likely to develop in women than men, a new study finds

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

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

The findings, published Tuesday in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, showed females were 22 percent more likely to develop COVID along than males.

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

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

Patients can experience a variety of persistent symptoms including fatigue, breathing difficulties, headaches, brain fog, joint and muscle pain, and continuing loss of taste and smell, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

It is unclear what leads people to develop a long COVID, 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 that remains active after infection.

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

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

Not only were the symptoms during COVID-19 infection different between males and females, but the symptoms were also different after the development of the long COVID-19.

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 percent more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms.

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On the other hand, the 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 by gender.

But the researchers noted that out 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 males and females can experience the disease differently.

“Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by gender, which limited gender-specific clinical insights that could impact treatment,” they wrote.

It’s unclear why women are more susceptible to long-term COVID than men, but the authors said it could be due to differences in how women’s immune systems respond to infection compared to men’s.

“Females mount faster and more robust innate and adaptive immune responses, which can protect them from initial infection and severity,” they wrote. “However, this same difference may make females more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune disease.”

Additionally, the team said women may be at greater risk of COVID-19 because some professions, such as nursing and education, are largely made up of women, which could, in turn, make them more prone to develop COVID-19 for a long time.

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

The team said it hopes more researchers will include detailed data on COVID-19 symptoms and effects by gender in their studies to further study how men and women are affected differently and whether different treatments are needed.

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

Dr. Roberto Herrera contributed to this report.

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