As many as one-in-10 people who contract coronavirus could be left suffering the effects of long Covid.
While the virus is often thought of as a relatively short-term illness, concerns are growing regarding the numbers of people taking much longer to recover from it.
Also known as Post-Covid-19 syndrome, it is leaving people with symptoms which linger for at least 12 weeks, if not longer.
Early studies have suggested that around 2% of people could have post-Covid issues spanning beyond 90 days.
What are the symptoms of long Covid?
Symptoms can include extreme fatigue, shortness of breath, memory problems and heart palpitations.
And the British Heart Foundation has warned Covid-19 can lead to pneumonia and an increasing risk of blood clots, deep vein thrombosis, heart attacks and stroke.
In December, three main medical groups, including the Scottish Intercollegiate Guidelines Network (Sign), published advice on how such symptoms should be managed and monitored.
They recommended anyone presenting with signs of Covid four weeks after the start of “acute” symptoms should have their blood count, kidney and liver functions tested, alongside an exercise tolerance test to record breathlessness and heart rate.
And, after 12 weeks, all patients should be offered a chest x-ray if they continue to suffer respiratory symptoms.
The advice from the trio of organisations, which includes the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) and the Royal College of General Practitioners, has been welcomed across the clinical spectrum.
What causes long Covid?
But much more research into the condition is required and a large number of studies have been commissioned to investigate.
Some have suggested coronavirus can leave the immune system permanently impaired, while others have drawn links with organ damage, changes to metabolism and even alterations to sufferers’ brain structure.
Last month, a £375,000 project involving teams in Aberdeen and Stirling was launched to help direct future treatment options.
How does long Covid affect people?
The study’s patient research partner, Callum O’Dwyer, has been suffering the effects of long Covid since March.
While he began to feel better after around 12 days, he told The P&J he suddenly became “even more sick than before”.
Mr O’Dwyer grew so week he was unable to pick up a one-litre water bottle, weighing around 2lb, to drink from, and found sitting in an armchair so strenuous he had to take breaks.
He has since begun experiencing heart issues, including palpitations and a racing pulse – even just from lying on his bed.
“I’ve also had brain fog, which has affected my memory quite a lot and my capacity to think things through and problem solve,” he said.
“Sometimes it would get so bad I’d be slurring my words as if I’d had 10 pints.”