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MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS
NEWS

COVID-19 Symptoms Linger Among People With MS, Study Finds

Posted on March 11, 2022
Medically reviewed by
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D.
Article written by
Kristen Fischer

  • Most people who have multiple sclerosis (MS) aren’t hospitalized if they get COVID-19, but many are experiencing lingering symptoms post COVID-19, a new study shows.
  • Data from people with MS in the United Kingdom found that about 30 percent had COVID-19 symptoms for four or more weeks, and 12 percent had symptoms lingering past 12 weeks.
  • Researchers hope their findings will help health care professionals tailor rehabilitation plans for people living with MS who develop COVID-19.

Almost one-third of people with multiple sclerosis say they’ve experienced what’s known as long COVID-19, or symptoms that linger for at least four weeks after acute infection. This finding is part of a recently published study, which could help health care providers in developing rehabilitation services for people with MS who’ve gotten COVID-19.

According to the U.K.-based research team, their findings also “highlight the importance of vaccination against COVID-19 in the MS population who appear to be vulnerable to the long-term effects of infection.”

Long COVID-19 May Affect People With MS at a Higher Rate

For the study, researchers examined the rates of long COVID-19 among those with MS. They pursued the topic after noting that most people with MS who had COVID-19 were not hospitalized — but often reported lingering effects from the illness.

The study authors looked at data from 7,977 people with MS in the United Kingdom. Of them, 1,096 were infected with COVID-19.

For the majority of study participants, the median duration of symptoms was 10 days. However, 29.7 percent of participants experienced symptoms for four weeks or longer, and 12.4 percent reported symptoms at 12 weeks or more following diagnosis.

According to the research team, these rates were higher than those in people without MS. They cited a study using a similar methodology that found that 13 percent of people without MS experienced COVID-19 symptoms for four weeks or longer and that 2 percent had symptoms that lasted 12 weeks or more.

Notably, however, other studies have reached conflicting conclusions as to duration of long COVID-19 in general population. Researchers continue to investigate risk factors leading to COVID-19 and why it lasts longer for some people than others.

Long COVID-19 Symptoms and MS

Study participants who reported COVID-19 symptoms that persisted for at least four weeks experienced such symptoms as:

  • New or worsened fatigue
  • Lower respiratory tract symptoms
  • New muscle pain
  • Gastrointestinal effects
  • Changes in smell or taste
  • Fever
  • Headache

“Patients with MS are affected by post-acute sequelae of COVID-19,” the study authors wrote. “Preexisting severe neurologic impairment or mental health problems appear to increase this risk. These findings can have implications in tailoring their post-COVID-19 rehabilitation.”

All updates must be accompanied by text or a picture.
Evelyn O. Berman, M.D. is a neurology and pediatric specialist and treats disorders of the brain in children. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Learn more about her here.
Kristen Fischer is a copy writer and journalist living at the Jersey Shore. Learn more about her here.

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