According to the conclusions of LONG-COVID-EXP-CM Study, published in the magazine Journal of Clinical Medicine, the average number of symptoms associated with Covid-19 experienced by women8 months after discharge was 2.25 versus 1.5 for men. This occurred even when the conditions caused by the acute infection were similar at hospital admission.
The work, carried out by researchers from the Rey Juan Carlos University (URJC) and the University of Valencia (UV), examines gender differences in disease-related symptoms and their long term effects after overcoming it and being discharged from the hospital.
The average number of COVID-19 symptoms experienced by women eight months after discharge was 2.25, compared to 1.5 for men.
Until now, some studies have suggested that gender could be a specific factor. This study specifically investigates, with the largest sample used to date, this disparity and takes into account differences in onset symptoms associated with covid.
Thus, “the pandemic has been linked to an increase in gender inequality. Recognizing that this disease affects women and men differently is a crucial step towards a better understanding of the pathophysiology and nature of sequelae and symptoms. post-covid and the promotion of individualized health solutions”, highlights Esperanza Navarro Pardo, UV professor and research participant.
“It is actually very interesting to see how women survive acute Covid-19 infection to a greater extent than men, but develop more symptoms later on,” he points out. Cesar Fernandez de las Penas, first signatory of the study and professor at the URJC.
It is very interesting to see how women survive acute Covid-19 infection to a greater extent than men, but develop more symptoms later on.
César Fernández de las Peñas, first signatory of the study
Differences between women and men
According to this study, which analyzes data from 1,969 patients from hospitals in the city of Madrid, sex does not seem to be related to the type of symptoms at the onset of the disease: at the time of hospital admission, the clinical picture was similar in both cases. sexes, except for the prevalence of headache as the initial symptom, which was more common in them.
However, in the post-Covid-19 state of health, there were more symptoms of fatigue, dyspnea, pain, hair loss, eye problems, depression and poor sleep quality in women than in men. The female sex appears, therefore, as a risk factor for some specific post-covid-19 symptoms like the ones mentioned above.
In the post-Covid-19 health status, women had more symptoms of fatigue, dyspnea, pain, hair loss, eye problems, depression and poor sleep quality than men.
Furthermore, although diseases such as hypertension, diabetes or cardiovascular disorders were related to a higher risk of severe pathology or mortality in the acute phase of infection, these variables have not been shown to have an effect on post-Covid symptomatology.
This may be related to the fact that it is more prevalent in men, who have a greater severity of infection and a higher mortality rate.
The reasons why the coronavirus would affect females more in the long term, points out the research team, would be the biological differences between women and men in the expression of some proteins, such as the enzyme that produces angiotensin-2 (ACE2) – a substance that narrows blood vessels, which can cause high blood pressure – or transmembrane receptors –proteins that span the entire thickness of the cell’s plasma membrane–.
In addition, another cause could be the lower production of pro-inflammatory interleukin-6 –a molecule that stimulates the immune system– after viral infection in women. However, the authors insist that these underlying mechanisms need further investigation.
Fernández-de-las-Peñas et al. “Female gender is a risk factor associated with long-term post-COVID-related symptoms, but not COVID-19 symptoms: the LONG-COVID-EXP-CM multicenter trial.” J. Clin. Med. 2022, 11, 413. DOI: https://doi.org/10.3390/jcm11020413
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