For most people, COVID-19 is a brief and mild disease but some are left struggling with symptoms including lasting fatigue, persistent pain and breathlessness for months. The condition known as “long Covid” is having a debilitating effect on people’s lives with Sicca syndrome being one such symptom to be aware of.
In a study published in Jama Network, persistent symptoms in patients after acute COVID-19 was investigated.
In Italy, a large proportion of patients with coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) presented with symptoms.
However, information was lacking on symptoms that persist after recovery.
The study assessed persistent symptoms in patients who were discharged from the hospital after recovery from COVID-19.
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Patients were offered a comprehensive medical assessment, in particular, data on specific symptoms potentially correlated with COVID-19 were obtained using a standardised questionnaire administered at enrolment.
“Patients were asked to retrospectively recount the presence or absence of symptoms during the acute phase of COVID-19 and whether each symptom persisted at the time of the visit,” noted the study.
“More than one symptom could be reported. The EuroQol visual analog scale was used to ask patients to score their quality of life from 0 (worst imaginable health) to 100 (best imaginable health) before COVID-19 and at the time of the visit.”
The results found that worsened quality of life was observed among 44.1 percent of patients.
A high proportion of individuals still reported fatigue (53.1 percent), dyspnoea (43.4 percent), joint pain, (27.3 percent) and chest pain (21.7 percent).
It concluded: “This study found that in patients who had recovered from COVID-19, 87.4 percent reported persistence of at least one symptom, particularly fatigue and dyspnoea.”
Limitations of the study included a focus only on the minority of people who end up needing hospital treatment.
What is Sicca syndrome?
Sicca syndrome describes problematic symptoms of dry eyes and dry mouth (xerostomia).
Dry mouth can lead to problems with taste, chewing, swallowing, speaking, and halitosis, while dry eye causes ocular discomfort, blurring of vision and, in severe cases, damage and scarring to the cornea.
“Dry mouth related to Sicca and not related to Sicca are strongly associated with COVID-19,” said a study published in the National Library of Medicine.
It continued: “The causes for this association are not clear and may include autoimmunity causes as well as increased risk for infection and the impact of other comorbidities and therapies.”