A new review has revealed women are significantly more likely to suffer from long COVID, and will experience substantially different symptoms than their male counterparts.
The international review of current research by Johnson & Johnson’s Office of the Chief Medical Officer analysed data from 35 publications on long COVID involving 1.3 million patients.
According to the review, published in Current Medical Research and Opinion, women were found to be 22 per cent more likely to be afflicted with long COVID than men.
The Mayo Clinic defines a patient with “long COVID” as someone who has symptoms that persist for more than four weeks after diagnosis, even among young, otherwise healthy people.
Common signs and symptoms of long COVID include fatigue, shortness of breath/difficulty breathing, cough, joint pain, chest pain, memory, concentration or sleep problems, muscle pain or headache, fast or pounding heartbeat, loss of smell or taste, depression or anxiety, fever, dizziness and a worsening of symptoms after physical or mental activity.
Interestingly, the review also found females also presented with a different suite of symptoms. Most notably, women were more likely to experience fatigue and mood disorders such as depression. They also suffered more ear, nose and throat issues; as well as neurological, skin, gastrointestinal and rheumatological disorders.
Men, on the other hand, were more likely to experience endocrine issues, such as diabetes and kidney disorders.
“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 authors of the review said.
Researchers explained that while women tended to have better immune responses to infections, this advantage ironically left them susceptible to longer-term issues.
“Differences in immune system function between females and males could be an important driver of sex differences in long COVID syndrome,” they said.
“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.”