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Persistent Headache After COVID: Should I See a Neurologist?

Headache After COVID

Contact Medical Clinics of New York City at (877) 465-7360 to book an appointment with an experienced neurologist in NYC.

COVID-19 affects people differently. People often experience common symptoms like loss of taste or smell, fever, chills, nausea, fatigue, cough, and body aches at varying severities.  According to the CDC, about 7.5% of American adults have lingering symptoms three months or longer after contracting the virus. 

A persistent headache after COVID can produce daily pain months after the SARS-CoV-2 virus leaves the body. Medical Clinics of New York City features some of the most reputable neurologists in New York City who treat patients with long-term headaches after COVID. Below we explain the condition, treatment options, and when to see a neurologist for help. 

Possible Explanations for Post-COVID Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common COVID-19 symptoms during and after infection. People with COVID-related headaches often experience moderate to severe pain resembling migraines or tension headaches. Roughly 25% of COVID patients with headaches experience migraine-type pain without a history of the condition. 

Persistent headaches following viral infections are a common phenomenon, according to the 3rd edition of the International Classification of Headache Disorders. For instance, historical documents list headaches as the most common neurological symptom during viral epidemics, including the Spanish flu of 1918 and the H1N1 pandemic of 2009. 

Regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, a persistent headache is one of the most prevalent symptoms of the post-COVID syndrome. It’s possible that the viral infection continuously triggers the immune and trigeminovascular systems, leading to persistent headaches. People can develop headaches alone or in addition to other symptoms like:

  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Shortness of breath
  • Muscle aches and weakness

Post-COVID Headache Symptoms

People often compare post-COVID headaches to migraine and describe the pain as a constant throbbing on one side of the head. They may also experience sensitivities to light, noise, and smell. For instance, exposure to a typically harmless scent could worsen the headache or cause nausea. 

Post-COVID headaches can be mild, dull, and short-term, or they can be debilitating and last for days. They can also feel similar to tension headaches, which produce painful, radiating pressure on both sides of the head.

Treatments for Persistent Headache After COVID

COVID-19 emerged in late 2019, but it’s still a relatively new virus. Experts continuously search for the best treatment for the daily headaches caused by the virus’s lingering effects. 

Some people will experience improvements naturally over time. However, a persistent headache after COVID may need medical intervention for relief, including a course of steroids. Steroid tablets can cause several side effects with long-term use, so they might not be suitable for every patient. 

People with daily post-COVID headaches sometimes try over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers before seeking stronger medication. However, the OTCs aren’t always effective against these headaches and can cause rebound headaches in some cases. 

Despite these treatment options for long-term headaches due to a COVID infection, not everyone is the same. It’s best to visit a neurologist who can complete an evaluation to understand your specific issue and develop an appropriate treatment plan. 

Neurological Concerns After Recovering From a COVID-19 Infection

Previous studies of post-viral complications associated with SARS determined that some neurological symptoms occur more frequently in patients that no longer have an active infection. For instance, a study revealed that patients who survive SARS experience impairment in their health status and functional capacity, including the development of neurological and psychobehavioral issues, within the first few months of recovery. 

A 2022 study with 288 COVID patients showed that about 22% of participants developed a neurological symptom. The most common symptoms include:

  • Persistent headache
  • Loss of taste or smell
  • Brain fog
  • Drowsiness
  • Mental confusion
  • A general sense of unwellness

Post-COVID-19 Neurological Syndrome, or PCNS, is another concern. PCNS is a post-viral syndrome caused by the SARS-CoV-2 virus that affects how the brain responds to the body’s immunological responses.

When infected by the COVID-19 virus, the body will produce cytokines, a unique protein that impacts cellular communication. Cytokines can accumulate within the central nervous system, including the hypothalamus, and create issues with hormone release, temperature regulation, and other long-term complications. Besides persistent headaches, PCNS can lead to the following problems:

  • Prolonged myopathy
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Dizziness
  • Cognitive decline
  • Depression, anxiety, and other impacts on mood

When to See a Neurologist in NYC for Persistent Headaches Post-COVID

Though long-term post-COVID headaches occasionally resolve without medical intervention, you should never assume that will always be the case. A persistent headache after COVID can severely affect your well-being, so it’s best to seek treatment quickly. Don’t hesitate to contact a top neurologist in NYC if your headaches prevent you from working, attending classes, or interacting with your family. 

Since post-COVID headaches are relatively new, you’ll need help from a neurologist to properly diagnose and treat such a complex medical condition. They will ask about your medical history and perform a physical examination during your initial appointments. The information they collect will help the medical professional create an individualized treatment plan that may include new therapeutic approaches. 

Call A Trusted Neurologist in NYC For Long-Term COVID-19 Effects    

The long-term effects of a COVID-19 infection can severely impact your quality of life. Don’t hesitate to contact Medical Clinics of New York City if you have a persistent headache after COVID. We proudly treat long COVID symptoms by providing comprehensive services for neurological issues, mental health problems, and other long-term complications. 

Our doctors accept most insurance plans, including workers’ compensation, no-fault, and PIP (personal injury protection). 

Request an appointment with Medical Clinics of New York City by calling (877) 465-7360. Same-day appointments may be available. 

We strive to continue to educate people about important topics like essential treatment methods, problematic symptoms, and various health conditions. Learn about long COVID and its neurological, physical, and mental effects by continuing to explore our blog