advertisement

Infectious Diseases

Updated 17 June 2020

Headache, dizziness before fever may signal Covid-19 and affect entire nervous system

It appears that Covid-19 may affect a patient’s entire nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord, a new study revealed.

  • Covid-19 may cause neurological symptoms, including headache and dizziness
  • This can cause serious damage to the central nervous system
  • Research urges patients and physicians not to ignore these symptoms

Almost half of hospitalised patients with Covid-19 have presented with neurological symptoms, including headache, dizziness, decreased alertness, difficulty concentrating, disorders of smell and taste, seizures, strokes, weakness and muscle pain. This is according to a new review – based on current literature on Covid-19 cases – that was published in Annals of Neurology by researchers from Northwestern University this month.

“Initially thought to be restricted to the respiratory system, we now understand that coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) also involves multiple  other organs including the central and peripheral nervous system,” the researchers wrote.

Neurological symptoms may occur before fever

The review specifically looks at various neurological conditions that may occur in Covid-19 patients, and offers advice for physicians on how to diagnose these patients.

The number of neurological manifestations of SARS-CoV-2, the virus that causes Covid-19, the disease, is rapidly increasing, the authors wrote, and say that it’s important for both the general public and physicians to be aware of this – particularly because these symptoms may show before the more common symptoms listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) likely to be experienced first, such as fever and a dry cough.

Disease may affect multiple organs

According to the researchers, Covid-19 may affect the entire nervous system, including the brain, nerves, spinal cord and the muscles, and added that the brain may also suffer from a lack of oxygen or clotting disorders which may then lead to stroke.

“Although we are only starting to grasp the complexity of  SARS-CoV-2 biology, it is already apparent that Covid-19 causes a global threat to the entire nervous system...

“As we hope for a vaccine or a cure, neurologists will play an important role in diagnosing, investigating and treating the many neurologic manifestations of Covid-19,” the authors said.

Previous studies lend support

A study published earlier this year looked at 214 cases of severe Covid-19 patients who were treated in Wuhan during the early phase of the global pandemic, Health24 reported. Like the more recent study above, the researchers of this study indicated that sometimes neurological symptoms appeared in the relative absence of the typical, more common symptoms of Covid-19.

It has only emerged in the past few months that the virus can infiltrate the brain and central nervous system (CNS), causing a loss of sense of smell and taste, meaning that it may somehow affect the nerve pathways of the infected individual. Another recent study revealed that almost 100% of hospitalised Covid-19 patients presented with smell "dysfunction".

Earlier this month, Health24 also reported on a study that looked at 725 hospitalised Covid-19 patients, 108 of whom had brain imaging done, and were found to have two specific neurological symptoms – stroke, and “altered mental state”.

Researchers in all these studies have stressed the need for further research into Covid-19 and its impact on the CNS, and that these symptoms be taken seriously so that there may be better and quicker interventions for patients in future.