Thousands Of Women Told They Have ‘Long-Term Covid’, May Be Menopausal, Experts Say
Women’s health worldwide could be under threat unless more research is urgently undertaken into the links between female sex hormones, menopause and Long COVID.
Female sex and being aged under 50 years are recognised risk factors for developing Long COVID.
But the authors of a new paper published in the prestigious medical journal – The Lancet Regional Health – Europe, argue that more research is needed into why these factors exist.
They also warn that women are at risk of being misdiagnosed with Long Covid when they actually could be experiencing symptoms of the perimenopause or menopause.
Many symptoms of Long COVID, including brain fog, fatigue, reduced stamina, headaches, dizziness, poor sleep and muscle pains overlap with common perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms.
Greater awareness of the important changes in sex hormones during the menopause is vital – the menopause is a long-term sex hormone deficiency state where levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone fall. The average age of the menopause in the UK is 51 and the majority of women in their 40s will be perimenopausal (when menopausal symptoms start occurring).
They say failure to explore sex-specific risk and outcomes in COVID research is unethical and associated with three key risks.
Firstly, it threatens opportunities for identifying mechanisms and treatment targets, where at present, no treatments exist.
Secondly, it threatens global women’s health at present and in the future, owing to the risk of misdiagnosing Long COVID instead of the perimenopause and menopause, and failing to prescribe appropriate treatments.
Thirdly, it threatens global economic recovery and future preparedness due to the highly gendered nature of work and female dominated sectors such as health and social care.
Lead author, Dr Stuart Stewart, of the Centre for Primary Care and Health Services Research, Division of Population Health, Health Services Research and Primary Care, The University of Manchester, said: ‘Long COVID disproportionately affects women and changes in sex hormones around the perimenopause and menopause likely play a significant role.’
‘I cannot stress enough the urgency of research in this area as it has the potential to impact present and future women’s health globally.’
Co-author Dr Louise Newson, GP and renowned menopause specialist, said: ‘For far too long women’s health has been a totally neglected area of research.’
‘This is a travesty which must end, starting with research in to the links between hormones, menopause and COVID.’
‘In the meantime, I would urge all healthcare professionals, particularly those working in dedicated Long COVID clinics, to ask “could these symptoms be due to the menopause or perimenopause”?
‘Not asking those vital questions could mean women are missing out on vital hormone replacement therapy (HRT). Not only is HRT the gold-standard treatment to ease perimenopausal and menopausal symptoms, it helps protect against long-term menopause-related health risks such as cardiovascular disease and osteoporosis.’
The article Long COVID risk – a signal to address sex hormones and women’s health is available at https://doi.org/10.1016/j.lanepe.2021.100242