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Are migraines a symptom of covid?

Medically reviewed by Sally Chao, MD. Last updated on Nov 9, 2021.

Official answer

by Drugs.com

Headache is a common symptom of COVID-19, and the headaches experienced by some patients may resemble a migraine. While the prevalence of headaches among COVID-19 patients has been estimated to range from 10 to 70% in various reports, it is unclear how many are migraine-like.

In 3 case reports reported in the Journal of Infection and Public Health, all patients reporting migraine with COVID-19 had previously been diagnosed with migraine without aura before COVID-19.

Headaches associated with COVID-19 tend to be felt across both sides of the head (bilateral) and may be described as pressing, pulsating, stabbing or dull. The headaches may not be easily relieved by standard pain medications. Headache is often one of the initial symptoms felt by patients with COVID-19.

In one study of 13 people with mild cases of COVID-19 in Headache, all reported headaches that shared migraine-like features, including:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Pain worsened by movement
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light

Most of the patients in the study recovered from their headaches within 3 days, which is the typical timeframe for a migraine headache. Their headaches appeared suddenly and were severe and unrelenting while they lasted.

In another study in Cephalalgia of 130 patients hospitalized with COVID-19 who reported headaches, 25% experienced headaches that met the diagnostic criteria of a migraine. For 19% of the study’s participants, headache was their most bothersome symptom. For 64% of the participants, headache intensity was considered severe.

References
  1. Waliszewska-Prosół M, Budrewicz S. The unusual course of a migraine attack during COVID-19 infection - Case studies of three patients. J Infect Public Health. 2021;14(7):903-905. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jiph.2021.04.013.
  2. Zubair AS, McAlpine LS, Gardin T, et al. Neuropathogenesis and Neurologic Manifestations of the Coronaviruses in the Age of Coronavirus Disease 2019: A Review. JAMA Neurol. 2020;77(8):1018-1027. doi: 10.1001/jamaneurol.2020.2065.
  3. Toptan T, Aktan Ç, Başarı A, et al. Case Series of Headache Characteristics in COVID-19: Headache Can Be an Isolated Symptom. Headache. 2020;60(8):1788-1792. https://doi.org/10.1111/head.13940.
  4. López JT, García-Azorín D, Planchuelo-Gómez Á, et al. Phenotypic characterization of acute headache attributed to SARS-CoV-2: An ICHD-3 validation study on 106 hospitalized patients. Cephalalgia. 2020;40(13):1432-1442. https://doi.org/10.1177%2F0333102420965146.

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