While a fever, cough, or sore throat have seemed to be the early warning signs of COVID-19, new research published in the Annals of Neurology shows almost half of hospitalized patients experience a host of neurological problems.
In fact, headaches, dizziness, strokes, weakness, decreased alertness or other neurological symptoms can appear before the more commonly known symptoms of infection with the new coronavirus, the researchers said. Those neurological symptoms can also include loss of smell and taste, seizures, muscle pain and difficulty concentrating. Pay attention to these symptoms and don’t panic, but consult your physician or Signature Health Services if you are under our care to determine if a test or other follow-up treatment is needed.
“It’s important for the general public and physicians to be aware of this, because a SARS-COV-2 infection may present with neurologic symptoms initially, before any fever, cough or respiratory problems occur,” said researcher Dr. Igor Koralnik. He is chief of neuro-infectious diseases and global neurology, and a professor of neurology at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago.
For the study, Koralnik’s team looked at all COVID-19 patients hospitalized at Northwestern Medicine, to see how often neurological complications appeared and how they responded to treatment.
“This understanding is key to direct appropriate clinical management and treatment,” Koralnik said in a Northwestern news release.
The virus can affect the whole nervous system — the brain, spinal cord, nerves and muscles. COVID-19 can also affect the lungs, kidneys, heart and brain, he said.
Last, but not least, the virus can infect the brain. Moreover, the reaction of the immune system to the infection can cause inflammation that can damage the brain and nerves, Koralnik added.
Because little is known about the long-term effects of the virus, the researchers intend to follow patients with neurological problems, to see how they do over time.
- Trouble breathing
- Persistent pain or pressure in the chest
- New confusion
- Inability to wake or stay awake
- Bluish lips or face
Call your medical provider for any other symptoms that are severe or concerning to you.