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Health Fusion: Long COVID symptoms different for women and men, a new study shows

Women and men have different symptoms of long haul COVID-19. In this episode of NewsMD's "Health Fusion," Viv Williams talks to a Mayo Clinic doctor about a new study that offers clues into long hauler COVID syndrome and how results will lead to improved diagnoses and better treatments.

In a study of the first 108 patients seen in Mayo Clinic's Post-COVID-19 Care Clinic, researchers found that women tended to show symptoms of fatigue, followed by muscle pain and low blood pressure, while men experienced shortness of breath. They also found that, while females may often do better than men during acute COVID infections, they might be more likely to become long haulers. But that part needs more research.

Dr. Ryan Hurt , study author and Mayo Clinic general internist, says they're looking at differences in immune responses between men and women as a way to explain the differences in the presentation of symptoms. Between 10 to 15% of people with COVID-19 will go on to have symptoms that persist for over 30 days.

"Long COVID or post COVID is not one single diagnoses," says Hurt. "Symptoms can range from loss of smell to full blown severe and debilitating fatigue."

He says symptoms are often similar to those of chronic fatigue syndrome, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome and fibromyalgia -- three conditions that are likely experienced by more females than males.

The research also revealed some of what's happening in the body during a long-hauler situation.

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"We found there was a low level of inflammation that's occurring even long after acute infection had resolved," says Hurt. "We looked at a marker called interleukin-6, which is an inflammatory marker that is elevated in a wide range of disease processes including acute COVID. We found this low grade inflammation to still be elevated in patients long after acute COVID should have resolved and long after we would expect the inflammation to have resolved."

Hurt notes that this was a small study, and further studies about where the inflammation originates are underway.

"Looking at other inflammatory markers will hopefully give us more information about the cause of post-COVID syndrome," says Hurt.

The study is published in the journal Mayo Clinic Proceedings.

Follow the Health Fusion podcast on Apple , Spotify , and Google Podcasts.

For comments or other podcast episode ideas, email Viv Williams at vwilliams@newsmd.com . Or on Twitter/Instagram/FB @vivwilliamstv.

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