Headache in Patients With Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus 2 Infection: A Narrative Review

Link to article at PubMed

Headache. 2020 Oct 5. doi: 10.1111/head.13980. Online ahead of print.


OBJECTIVE: To summarize available literature regarding headache as a manifestation of coronaviruses and to describe potential underlying mechanisms.

REVIEW METHODS: References for this review were identified by searches within PubMed without any date restrictions. The search terms used were coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) clinical manifestation, COVID-19 epidemiology, neurologic findings in COVID-19, headache in COVID-19, neurologic manifestations of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2), and headache in SARS-CoV-2.

RESULTS: Headache is one of the most common neurologic complaints in patients with SARS-CoV-2. While the pathophysiological connection between headache and SARS-CoV-2 is unclear, inflammatory mechanisms may play a key role. One of the mechanisms cited in the literature of migraine and other headache disorders is the activation of nociceptive sensory neurons by cytokines and chemokines. A similar mechanism has been reported in SARS-CoV-2 with the release of cytokines and chemokines by macrophages throughout the course of infection. Other mechanisms for headache in SARS-CoV-2 include (1) viral neuroinvasion as seen with viral encephalitis; (2) hypoxemia due to the well-described pulmonary manifestations of the disease; and (3) thrombosis secondary to COVID-19 induced hypercoagulable states.

CONCLUSION: According to the Centers for Disease Control, common symptoms of human coronavirus include fever, cough, runny nose, sore throat, and headache. In the case of SARS-CoV-2, there are limited reports about headaches, one of the most common clinical manifestations. There are currently no studies that focus specifically on headache among patients with SARS-CoV-2 infection.

PMID:33017479 | DOI:10.1111/head.13980

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