coronavirus dizziness symptoms vertigo

Dizziness and COVID-19

The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has changed society as we know it. We have social distancing requirements and stay at home in orders in place. This is a new world that none of us are accustomed to. This virus is now widespread, contagious, and has the capability of causing a multitude of unusual symptoms. Most of us are aware of the more common respiratory symptoms and fever; however, there have also been reports of rarer symptoms including loss of smell and even stroke in young individuals without risk factors for stroke.

In addition to a growing body of evidence of a connection between hearing loss and COVID-19, several studies are now showing that dizziness symptoms are also associated with COVID-19 infection.

 

Is Dizziness and Vertigo a Symptom of COVID-19?

 

Most cases of dizziness associated with COVID-19 seem to be related to central nervous system involvement (the brain and spinal cord). A study from three special care centers for COVID-19 in Wuhan, China showed over a third of patients exhibited abnormal neurological symptoms. They found that 17% of patients reported dizziness and 8% reported impaired consciousness. Out of this same data set, 62% had a fever and 50 % had a cough. This would suggest that while fever and cough are the most common symptoms associated with this virus, abnormal nervous system impairments are relatively common and dizziness is the most commonly reported nervous system abnormality.

Another study from Tongji Hospital in Wuhan, China found that 8% of patients with confirmed COVID-19 reported dizziness symptoms. Of those patients reporting dizziness only half recovered from the virus.

It is important to note that both of these studies were performed in special treatment facilities for patients hospitalized with known COVID-19. This does not account for those in the population that may have had mild or no symptoms at all. Due to these factors, it is likely that this data more closely reflects those with more severe cases of COVID-19.

 

Coronavirus: Possible Impact on Central Nervous System

 

Other members of the coronavirus family have been found capable of affecting the central nervous system. Members of the coronavirus family have been associated with neurological diseases including optic neuritis, encephalitis, meningitis, and Guillain-Barre.

It also appears that COVID-19 shares the ability to adversely impact the nervous system, but how it impacts the nervous system is not fully understood at this time.

 

Dizziness from COVID-19 that is not from a neurologic cause

 

Some members of the coronavirus family can impact individual cranial nerves, as evidenced by optic neuritis secondary to a coronavirus infection; therefore, it would seem possible that COVID-19 could cause a vestibular neuritis. To date, this has not been investigated.

It is also possible that those suffering from hypoxia due to the virus’s effects on the lungs could experience confusion or dizziness.

There is currently a limited understanding of how this virus affects the human body and more research will have to be completed to gain a better understanding, but according to the limited data, dizziness can be a symptom of COVID-19.

 

About Brady Workman

Brady Workman, AuD, is an audiologist in the Balance Disorders program at Wake Forest Baptist Health Center. Brady resides in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and is licensed by the North Carolina Board of Examiners for Speech Language Pathologists and Audiologists and is a fellow of the American Academy of Audiology. His primary clinical interests include comprehensive vestibular assessment and adult hearing diagnostics.

2 Comments

  1. My daughter (now age 31) presumably had Corona 19 several months ago. She was quite ill but treated herself at home after a phone consult with a nurse – we dropped off food. She was dizzy and had some vertigo and those symptoms HAVE NOT GONE AWAY. She ended up in the Emergency Room and now is going through a very delayed treatment with a doctor by phone. The first test they want to do since the ER is to see if there are crystals in the inner ear that can be dislodged and to wear a heart monitor for a month. Laura Anne continues to be significantly affected by the dizziness/vertigo daily. She has ulcerative colitis which she controls quite well naturally with food and probiotics although she does tend to get sick easily. She is not on any medication.

    For family history of dizziness/vertigo – When I (her mother) was in my early 20s I got oto spongiosis – at the time called oto sclerosis from birth control pills (which my daughter does not take). For me, that disease was quite devastating. In my late 50s I got crystals in the inner ear while I was taking Ambien daily.

    Any perspective or suggestions you could offer would be greatly appreciated!

    Thank you for reading this.

    1. Sandra,

      I am sorry it has taken me some time to reply to you. I hope that your daughter is feeling better by now. It is hard to say exactly what could be causing her symptoms as there are so many potential causes for dizziness.

      The ear crystal condition you described is called benign paroxysmal positional vertigo (BPPV). This is the most common reason anyone would experience brief episodes of vertigo following head movements. The episodes typically persist for between 10-30 seconds following a head movement and the symptoms should resolve when remaining still. If it’s BPPV there are effective treatments called canalith repositioning procedures. The most common one is called the Epley maneuver and this treats the most common variant of BPPV. For most people BPPV will resolve on its on even left untreated in a period of weeks. I will say that it would be unusual for someone as young as her to have BPPV without a prior history of head trauma. Often when a young person develops BPPV it can be attributed to a prior/recent head trauma.

      I hope this is helpful.

      Best,
      Brady Workman

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