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Why Feeling Really Dizzy Could Be a Sign of COVID-19, According to Doctors

Prevention logo Prevention 5/13/2022 Arielle Weg, Korin Miller
Feeling some dizziness? Experts say vertigo is serious and can be a sign of COVID-19. Here’s what to know about the symptom and when to see a doctor. © dmbaker - Getty Images Feeling some dizziness? Experts say vertigo is serious and can be a sign of COVID-19. Here’s what to know about the symptom and when to see a doctor.

Feeling dizzy or experiencing vertigo in any situation can be a bit concerning, because there’s a long list of causes that can spur the unsettling feeling. Vertigo is a condition that can make it feel like you or your surroundings are spinning, sometimes leading to a loss of balance, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine.

A sudden drop in blood pressure, dehydration, getting up too quickly, certain medications, inner ear issues, or motion sickness are all common causes of dizziness. But struggling with an unusual symptom during the coronavirus pandemic might make you wonder if it could be related to COVID-19.

Currently, neither the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) nor the World Health Organization (WHO) list dizziness or vertigo as a symptom of COVID-19. But the CDC does note that its list doesn’t include “all possible symptoms.”

Here’s everything doctors know about the link between dizziness, vertigo, and COVID-19, and what you should do if you’re suddenly feeling dizzy.

The difference between dizziness and vertigo.

Though dizziness was once the umbrella term for all types of dizziness, unsteadiness, and feelings of off-balance, including vertigo, the two are actually slightly different, explains Robert Quigley, M.D., D.Phil., an immunologist specializing in infectious disease and Global Medical Director of International SOS. And both are increasingly seen as symptoms of COVID-19.

“Dizziness can be a variety of different sensations including that feeling of lightheadedness and that you’re going to faint,” Dr. Quigley says. “Vertigo, on the other hand, is a sensation that the room is spinning around you or you’re spinning around the room.”

Is dizziness and/or vertigo a symptom of COVID-19?

Some research has linked vertigo to COVID-19. In fact, a review of research published in the Ear, Nose & Throat Journal called dizziness or vertigo symptoms “one of the main clinical manifestations of COVID-19.”

For the paper, researchers analyzed 14 different studies that included data from 141 coronavirus patients—and found that all of them experienced vertigo or dizziness at some point. They also found that dizziness or vertigo were the initial symptoms in three of those patients and, in two of them, it was followed by respiratory symptoms. “It is imperative that attending physicians remain vigilant, especially when managing nonspecific symptoms such as dizziness, as it can be easily overlooked,” the researchers concluded.


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Research from May 2022 examined why more patients were experiencing symptoms like dizziness, vertigo, and imbalance after a COVID-19 infection or vaccination. Scientists found that COVID-19 infections or vaccinations don’t cause vertigo, but it may trigger persistent perceptual positional vertigo (PPPV), which is related to anxiety, depression, or mood disorders.

Another recent editorial published in the Brazilian Journal of Otorhinolaryngology found dizziness in patients with COVID-19 ranges from seven to 12%, but more information is needed. The study hypothesizes that lifestyle changes due to COVID-19, including emotional, metabolic, social, and day-to-day changes may be to blame.

A case report published in July 2020 detailed how a 78-year-old man went to the ER in March with dizziness and unsteadiness as his main symptoms. Despite having no known symptoms of COVID-19, he tested positive for the coronavirus. “Frontline physicians should be aware of early, non-specific symptoms associated with SARS‐CoV‐2 infection,” the researchers wrote.

Another case report published in June 2020 detailed how a 20-year-old woman went to the hospital with vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. She also eventually tested positive for COVID-19.

While it’s clear that COVID-19 could potentially cause dizziness, it’s not entirely clear why. “At this time, the specific mechanism explaining this phenomenon has not been identified,” says Iahn Gonsenhauser, M.D., chief quality and patient safety officer at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Vertigo and dizziness are common general symptoms associated with many viruses, and particularly with an illness accompanied by fever, not just COVID-19.”

However, infectious disease expert Amesh A. Adalja, M.D., senior scholar at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, thinks there could be an indirect link. “People could be dehydrated or feeling very badly with generalized malaise with COVID—that can make you feel dizzy,” he says.

A drop in blood oxygen levels, which can happen with more severe cases of COVID-19, can also bring on feelings of vertigo, says John Sellick, D.O., an infectious disease expert and professor of medicine at the University at Buffalo/SUNY in New York.

Especially with newer variants of COVID-19, like the omicron and omicron subvariant Ba.2, Dr. Quigley hypothesizes that it may also have to do with the virus’ impact on your cranial nerves. We know that COVID-19 has historically impacted the cranial nerves when we lose our taste and smell, so it’s likely that in some of the newer variants it may also affect the cranial nerve responsible for balance and vertigo, he says.

What should you do if you feel dizziness or vertigo?

While simply feeling dizzy doesn’t automatically mean you have COVID-19, especially if you have no other symptoms, it’s worth talking to your doctor if the feeling persists or you start experiencing a loss of balance. “We see dizziness with many other infections and illnesses,” Dr. Sellick says. “But since there’s so much COVID-19 circulating, it may be worth exploring.”

Dr. Gonsenhauser also stresses dizziness isn’t a condition you want to sit on. “Dizziness and vertigo can be signs of many other potentially dangerous and even life-threatening conditions, such as cardiovascular problems, stroke, serious infection, and sepsis, as well as many others,” he says.

If your dizziness comes on suddenly and it’s not linked with a fever or preexisting condition, Dr. Gonsenhauser says you should seek immediate medical attention.

This article is accurate as of press time. However, as the COVID-19 pandemic rapidly evolves and the scientific community’s understanding of the novel coronavirus develops, some of the information may have changed since it was last updated. While we aim to keep all of our stories up to date, please visit online resources provided by the CDC, WHO, and your local public health department to stay informed on the latest news. Always talk to your doctor for professional medical advice.

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