Levels of the ‘stress hormone’ cortisol are key indicators of whether a person will suffer long from Covid, study finds
- A Yale research team found that people who suffered from “long Covid” had lower levels of cortisol in their blood
- Cortisol is a stress hormone produced by the adrenal gland, which activates brain alerts
- The CDC estimates that about 8% of American adults suffer from some form of long-term Covid
The “stress hormone” cortisol could be at the heart of the mystery that is “long covid”: the puzzling phenomena where a person still experiences symptoms of the virus for months after recovery.
Yale University researchers found that people suffering from what could be considered “long covid” were generating about half as much cortisol as their healthy peers.
The exact link between cortisol and the long Covid has not yet been found, but the Yale findings could open the door to the explanation of a new hypothesis about what is causing the mysterious disease.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that about eight percent of American adults suffer from a form of prolonged Covid.
Long-term Covid patients have around half as much cortisol in their blood as people who recovered from the virus without long-term problems, researchers found (file photo)
It is almost impossible to know what chance a person has of developing it after being infected with Covid due to the massive under-reporting of cases that has occurred since the Omicron variant emerged last year.
The researchers, whose findings have been made available online ahead of print and are pending peer review, collected data from 215 people.
Of this group, 99 had a long-term case of Covid, 40 had no recorded COVID-19 infections, while the remaining 76 recovered from the virus without long-term complications.
The most common symptoms experienced by long-term Covid patients include brain fog, fatigue and nervous system problems.
They took blood samples from each participant and measured the levels of cortisol found.
Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone. It will activate in the adrenal glands – which are right above the kidneys – and spread throughout the body.
Once enough of the hormone is detected in a person’s bloodstream, the brain will go into high alert, causing the sensation we know as “stress.”
Low levels of cortisol have been linked in the past to chronic fatigue syndrome and other similar illnesses. Fatigue is also one of the most noticeable symptoms of the long Covid.
The Yale research team noted that some long-term Covid patients who have been treated by increasing their cortisol levels have shown some improvement.
This is only the beginning of the search, however. Now that cortisol levels have been linked to long covid, how exactly to treat it and what is the next step is to develop treatments and find the mechanism that causes the hormone to create a problem.
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