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Extent of sensory loss in long Covid revealed by Anglia Ruskin University study

The extent of sensory loss among people suffering from long Covid has been revealed in new research from Anglia Ruskin University (ARU).

Analysing data from 14 separate studies, researchers found about 30 per cent of people report a decreased sense of smell 12 weeks or more after their initial infection, with a similar number finding their sense of taste had reduced.

Some Long Covid sufferers report a loss of taste or smell
Some Long Covid sufferers report a loss of taste or smell

Long Covid is believed to affect between 13 and 15 per cent of people who test positive for Covid-19, and is defined as symptoms lasting for longer than 12 weeks post-infection.

The Office of National Statistics most recent estimate suggests around two million people in the UK have long Covid.

Senior author Professor Shahina Pardhan, director of the Vision and Eye Research Institute (VERI) at ARU, said: “Persistent changes in taste and smell have manifested as symptoms of long Covid. These are generally associated with decreases in quality of life, so it is vital that we understand these changes in patients’ smell and taste to help medical professionals advise or manage patients appropriately.

“Our results also show an elevated prevalence of persistent blurred vision and hearing-related symptoms after three months. Future research is required to understand why this is the case and so that healthcare providers can provide the right kind of care for people suffering from various sensory losses due to Covid-19.”

[Read more: Long Covid patient in Cambridge tells how simple treatment took her from being almost paralysed to riding a bike in days]

The researchers examined studies that explored the prevalence of persistent anosmia (full loss of smell), hyposmia (decreased sense of smell), ageusia (loss of sense of taste) and hypogeusia (reduced sense of taste), as well as vision and hearing-related long Covid symptoms, covering 4,702 people. They found that at least 12 weeks after first being infected:

  • 31.2 per cent reported suffering from reduced sense of taste
  • 29.9 per cent reported decreased sense of smell
  • 12.2 per cent reported full loss of smell
  • 11.7 per cent encountered full loss of taste.

Several people reported symptoms affecting the eyes or ears, such as tinnitus, blurred vision or dry eyes.

Lead author Dr Mike Trott, visiting fellow at ARU, said: ‘‘Knowing the prevalence of changes in sensory symptoms post-Covid is essential to aiding our understanding of the pathophysiology of the disease, especially as our understanding of long Covid is in its infancy.”

The open access paper can be read at frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmed.2022.980253/full.

[Read more: Long Covid recovery improved by capsule with phytochemicals found in plant-based food, study led by Addenbrooke’s oncologist finds]

Covid booster jabs are now being rolled out to some age groups.

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