Coronavirus symptoms: Five less obvious ways COVID-19 can reveal itself
Coronavirus cases in the UK currently falls just shy of the 280,000 mark, with almost 40,000 officially recorded deaths, according to one analysis. While the exact number is still disputed, make no bones about it, the UK has been one of the worst hit regions. Now the dust is starting to settle in the UK and other European countries scarred by COVID-19, researchers are gathering data on hospitalised patients to identify the spectrum of symptoms.
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According to the the NHS, there are three main COVID-19 warning signs:
- High temperature – this means you feel hot to touch on your chest or back (you do not need to measure your temperature)
- New, continuous cough – this means coughing a lot for more than an hour, or three or more coughing episodes in 24 hours (if you usually have a cough, it may be worse than usual)
- Loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
Research suggests this list does not capture the totality of symptoms one may experience, however.
On the contrary, a study conducted by University of Cincinnati researchers and four Italian institutions, points to the numerous ways COVID-19 can affect the central nervous system.
The study, published in the journal Radiology, investigated neurological symptoms and imaging findings in patients from three major institutions in Italy: University of Brescia, Brescia; University of Eastern Piedmont, Novara; and University of Sassari, Sassari. Italy was the second epicenter of the spread of COVID-19, resulting in over 30,000 deaths.
The study included images from 725 hospitalized patients with confirmed COVID-19 infection between Feb. 29 and April 4.
Of these, 108 (15 percent) had serious neurological symptoms and underwent brain or spine imaging. Most patients (99 percent) had brain CT scans, while 16 percent had head and neck CT imaging and 18 percent had brain MRI.
Investigators found that 59 percent of patients reported an altered mental state and 31 percent experienced stroke, which were the most common neurological symptoms.
Patients also experienced headache (12 percent), seizure (nine percent) and dizziness (four percent), among other symptoms.
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“Studies have described the spectrum of chest imaging features of COVID-19, but only a few case reports have described COVID-19 associated neuroimaging findings,” says lead author Abdelkader Mahammedi, MD, assistant professor of radiology at UC and a UC Health neuroradiologist.
Mahammedi continued: “To date, this is the largest and first study in literature that characterises the neurological symptoms and neuroimaging features in COVID-19 patients.
“These newly discovered patterns could help doctors better and sooner recognise associations with COVID-19 and possibly provide earlier interventions.”
He said that altered mental status was more common in older adults.
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While results show that the neuroimaging features of patients with COVID-19 vary, and an altered mental status and stroke are the most prevalent in patients, Mahammedi said this study reveals that there are other conditions to be on the lookout for.
“This topic definitely needs more research,” he said.
“Currently, we have a poor understanding of the neurological symptoms in COVID-19 patients, whether these are arising from critical illness or from direct central nervous system invasion of SARS-CoV-2. We hope further study on this subject will help in uncovering clues and providing better interventions for patients,” Mahammedi added.
What should you do if your symptoms get worse?
According to the NHS, it’s important to get medical help if your symptoms get worse.
Use the 111 online coronavirus service if:
- You feel you cannot cope with your symptoms at home
- You feel breathless and it’s getting worse
- Your symptoms get worse and you’re not sure what to do
- The NHS says to call 999 for an ambulance if you or someone you care for:
- Are struggling to breathe
- Are coughing up blood
- Have blue lips or a blue face
- Feel cold and sweaty, with pale or blotchy skin
- Have a rash that does not fade when you roll a glass over it
- Collapse or faint
- Become confused or very drowsy
- Have stopped peeing or are peeing much less than usual
“Tell the operator you might have coronavirus symptoms,” advises the health body.
If you exhibit only mild symptoms, self-isolate for at least seven days from when your symptoms started, it adds.
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