Why Are Women More Likely To Suffer From Long COVID?

If you're a woman who had COVID-19 and you're suffering from long COVID symptoms, it could be related to your gender. 

According to a new study published in the journal Current Medical Research and Opinion, women were 22% more likely than men to suffer from long COVID symptoms after becoming infected. The study followed 1.3 million patients with women reporting lingering symptoms, such as fatigue, mood disorders, respiratory and gastrointestinal problems, and issues with their ears, nose, and throat. The report highlighted the importance of determining how one's gender affects the manifestation of symptoms, as the data could help direct the development of new therapies and treatments. 

A primary reason for the difference between how long COVID impacts females compared to males is likely due to females having a stronger immune response to the disease. Shirley Sylvester, study author and senior medical director for women's health at Johnson & Johnson, told HealthDay News that this ends up putting females at greater risk of developing autoimmune diseases.

Previous studies have evaluated how differences in gender can impact factors like hospitalization and death rates. However, those studies did not get into gender-specific data at a granular level related to long-term damage following a COVID infection, per HealthDay News.

What is long COVID?

One of the problems with nailing down a precise definition for long COVID is that there are roughly 200 symptoms that are currently associated with the syndrome, and they vary from mildly uncomfortable to severe. How long these symptoms persist also varies, per Nature.

Another issue with pinpointing long COVID is that there is no test available that can provide a long COVID diagnosis, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). However, the CDC explains that since most COVID symptoms subside within a few weeks at most, if you have persistent symptoms beyond that, your doctor may be able to weigh your symptoms against your health history. This can help determine whether your persistent symptoms are potentially due to COVID.

In addition to females appearing more likely than males to develop long COVID, previous studies indicate that those who suffered from a serious COVID infection are also more likely to develop long COVID symptoms. People with underlying health conditions who become infected with COVID and unvaccinated people who receive a COVID diagnosis are also more likely to experience persistent symptoms. To avoid the risk of developing long COVID, your best defense is to get vaccinated and stay up to date on your COVID shots, per CDC.