The results, published Tuesday in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, showed that women are 22% more likely to develop long-term COVID than men.”Knowledge about the fundamental gender differences … of COVID-19 is crucial for the identification … of effective therapies and public health interventions that are inclusive and sensitive to the potential needs for differential treatment of both sexes” , the authors said in a news release.
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Long-term COVID occurs when patients who have cleared the infection still have symptoms that last more than four weeks after recovery. In some cases, these symptoms may persist for months, or even years.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, patients may experience a variety of persistent symptoms, including fatigue, shortness of breath, headaches, brain fog, joint and muscle pain, and continued loss of taste and smell. .
It is unclear what causes people to develop long-term COVID, but there are several theories among experts, such as the persistent virus in the body, the damage to the 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 in the four weeks after the positive test included hearing, nose and throat problems (ENT); muscle aches and pains; shortness of breath and psychiatric or mood disorders such as depression.
Meanwhile, men were more likely to suffer from kidney disorders such as acute kidney injury.
Not only were the symptoms different during COVID-19 infection between men and women, but the symptoms were also different after the development of a long COVID.
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% more likely to have gastrointestinal symptoms.
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On the other hand, men had higher rates of kidney disorders as well as endocrine disorders, including diabetes.
Several studies in the past have looked at differences in hospitalization, ICU admission, and death by COVID-19 disaggregated by sex.
But the researchers noted that of the more than 600,000 articles analyzed for this study, published between December 2019 and June 2021, only 35 provided data on the symptoms and consequences of COVID-19 in sufficient detail to understand how men and women can experience. disease differently.
“Unfortunately, most studies did not evaluate or report granular data by sex, which limited gender-specific clinical knowledge that may affect treatment,” they wrote.
It is unclear why women are more susceptible to long-term COVID-19 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.
“Women 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 women more vulnerable to prolonged autoimmune diseases.”
In addition, the team said that women may be at higher risk of COVID-19 because certain occupations, such as nursing and education, are largely made up of women, which in turn could make them more likely to develop long-term COVID-19.
In addition, “there may be gender disparities in access to care that could affect the natural history of the disease and lead to further complications and [aftereffects]”, The authors wrote in the statement.
The team said it expects more researchers to include detailed data on the symptoms and effects of COVID-19 disaggregated by sex in their studies to further study how men and women are affected and whether different ones are needed. treatments.
The authors did not immediately respond to ABC News’ request for comment.
Dr. Roberto Herrera contributed to this report.
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