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.
Several studies are now showing that dizziness symptoms are also associated with COVID-19 infection.
Can COVID-19 cause dizziness?
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 and the 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.