Is There a Test for Long COVID?

Is There a Test for Long COVID

If you are one of the more than 2 million people struggling with long COVID, in the U.K. alone, you have probably come across this article because you are asking, ‘Is there a test for long COVID?’ You will agree with us that life would be so much simpler if you could just have a test that told you, your friends and family, and your doctors, that you had the recognised condition of long COVID. A test, which identified a pathology – something going wrong in your cells or organs – would not only help you mentally but would suggest research was developing in the right direction; possibly towards some sort of medication to alleviate symptoms or even attack the root cause of the condition.

Wouldn’t it be nice to know you have a condition that can be identified in the blood or saliva? We are asked if there is a test for long COVID a lot, so we have pulled together a round-up of all things long COVID in this blog to set the record straight. 

So, is there a test for long COVID?

The short answer is no. There is not yet one test that can diagnose a case of long COVID.  There is one in development, however, which received EU approval in September 2022 but is not yet in the UK. Named IncellKINE, the test is based on the identification of unique immune cells that are raised in long COVID patients.

However, just because there is not one test yet doesn’t mean there are no other tests your doctor can take to diagnose better why you are feeling the way you do. With 74% of long-haul sufferers struggling after twelve weeks, we desperately need a test. From foggy brains and deadening fatigue to tight chests and memory lapses, sufferers are being left with crippling conditions that far extend the positive testing period that we have all come to dread.

The latest NHS long COVID action plan is backed with £90 million, with the goal to treat people within six weeks of a suspected long COVID case. There will also be 90 long COVID clinics available across the UK once all stages have been completed, aiming to offer diagnosis, support, and different types of rehabilitation for those struggling with the condition.

There is no test at present which can diagnose long COVID but, based on research and past cases, specialist long COVID doctors at long COVID clinics may be able to recommend treatment plans based on your symptoms if they are respiratory or cardiac (that’s lungs and heart). The NHS has outlined the tests they will carry out to investigate the effects of your long COVID. As no two cases are the same, it’s about looking into the function of your specific organs rather than looking at long COVID as a condition. In itself – it is far too complicated for that!

The tests that you can expect to receive if you suspect you are a long-hauler are the following:

Blood Tests

This will show many different things, including if any other conditions are being experienced because of a positive COVID case. The University of Cambridge has also recently reported the importance of understanding what long COVID markers in the blood look like for future diagnosis. Hopefully, this means that in the coming months, blood tests will be more advanced in their correlations with long COVID as a registered condition.

Pulse Saturation Tests

Even after the infectious part of the virus has gone, reduced oxygen levels can be an indicator of the long-term effects being experienced. An average blood oxygen level is above 95%, whereas someone suffering from the long COVID can have SATS as low as 90% in extreme situations.  

X-Rays

COVID attacks the lungs and chest area, so you may be asked to have an X-Ray of your chest to understand what any damage looks like. Chest X-Rays have an 84% success rate when diagnosing a case of COVID but are too blunt a tool to pick up the subtle effects of COVID on the lungs in many cases. However, it is important to rule out serious damage done by the initial infection and if disease or damage is spotted on an x-ray, you may be referred to a specialist for a CT scan. Scans such as x-rays and CT scans also help medical professionals understand if long COVID has resulted in other breathing conditions that may need other treatment. 

Exercise Tolerance Tests

It is important to understand how the body processes oxygen when it is most active. This form of medical testing is also essential to evaluate breathing levels, heart activity, blood flow and lung functionality. Cardiorespiratory fitness is said to be a vital sign of long COVID being experienced, so many doctors will choose to carry out this test.

Psychological Examinations

Long COVID is not just about feeling physically unwell but also not being mentally 100%. A  positive COVID diagnosis can increase the chance of a patient suffering from depression or anxiety by 46%. If COVID has left you not feeling great yourself, but you don’t have any physical issues, you may be suffering from a psychological symptom of long COVID.  In such cases, your doctor may suggest a short-term prescription of anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medication. This is NOT saying that your suffering is all in the mind! But sometimes long-haulers need help improving their mental well-being just like everyone does at times in their lives.

As of September 2022, 3.5% of the UK population was said to be living with long COVID. Shockingly, 1.1 million of those people believe they were infected over a year ago, meaning they have been living with the symptoms for a long time. 

How long do symptoms last for long COVID?

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Long COVID can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to over a year, and in some cases two or more years. And as yet it has not been fully established as to why it effects those it does and not others. You may also find that certain COVID symptoms last for longer. Despite the many different definitions that you will find online, there is no official definition of what long COVID is and how long it can last for, which is extremely frustrating. We say that if you are struggling with known and recognised symptoms that you cannot attribute to another illness, then, unfortunately, it sounds as though you are probably a long hauler.

Can an antibody test help me diagnose long COVID?

Yes, this is another way you could understand if you had had COVID if you did not test positive when the virus was active. 

Some people may not experience any symptoms at all during their positive period but then start to suffer afterwards and are left wondering what on earth is wrong with them. In this case, an antibody test could tell you if it is long COVID you are likely suffering from. Such tests can identify if antibodies are recent, and which strain of the virus you have had, so as not to be confused with a vaccination you may have had a significant time beforehand. The there is no official definition of what long COVID is and how long it can last for,, can provide an answer if you have recently had a Covid infection and have not felt well since.

Can I get COVID again whilst still suffering from long COVID and what effects will this have on my long COVID?

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Unfortunately, you can get a live case of COVID again even if you are still struggling with the aftereffects.

This is because the live part of the virus is no longer at bay, meaning that you can be infected again by new strains that your body has not developed antibodies to fight off. For 80% of people who were already suffering from long COVID, this can lead to worsening conditions. Reinfection risks are also higher if you have already been affected by COVID as your body is already weakened to the very areas that it looks to attack. 

Some of the ways that you can protect yourself against another bout of this dreadful virus are the following:

  • Focus on gently but systematically building your physical strength and improving your overall health, as this will mean, if you do contract COVID again, you are better equipped to fight it. When you are faced with a second infection, this is more important than ever. We are huge advocates of using gentle, short, regular Yoga for this purpose as it arms you with a whole load of mental and physical benefits. Our Yoga for Long COVID programme is designed to aid recovery and prevent COVID from taking hold of your body. The muscle-toning stretches and mind-building meditation techniques allow the whole being to become stronger. Yoga improves blood flow, and lymphatic flow which is super-important for all post-viral syndromes, loosens joints, calms and strengthens breathing, and strengthens the mind.
  • Learning to breathe properly again is the very best form of exercise for long COVID as the lungs depend on the strength and flexibility of the muscles used for breathing. Our Breathing for Long COVID programme allows people to take back control, by learning how to rebuild long-term lung strength. As well as feeling calmer, this also means your oxygen levels can be improved and your sinuses do not suffer from the congestion that long COVID can leave you with.
  • It is also important to be mindful of the condition long COVID has left you in when undertaking your daily life. Whilst we know the temptation is to forget about it and try to live like normal unless you want to run the risk of long-term suffering, this is not an option. We are sure our long COVID sufferers will back us up on this one! Rest is crucial for long haulers, but not too much and that is where our Antiviral programme comes in.

Why The Long Haul Lounge Antiviral programme?

Our trademarked Antiviral programme is the key to opening the lock that is keeping you from getting better. We understand exactly what you can do to take on your symptoms head-on and start feeling better immediately. As osteopaths and medical professionals, our programme has been designed to tackle COVID from every angle, naturally. By taking part in the exercises we show you and the course of action we prescribe, which leads to profound healing of long COVID, you will quickly identify your long COVID symptoms and learn how to reduce them.

Is there a test for long COVID? No, but whilst this is being figured out, we can support you with getting to the bottom of your long-hauler woes once and for all.

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