After recovering from COVID-19, some get persistent, debilitating headaches

Headaches after COVID-19 can be persistent for some patients, and neurologists are finding some effective ways to address the debilitating pain.

Headaches after recovering from COVID-19 can be persistent for some patients, and neurologists are finding some effective ways to address the debilitating pain that can linger.

“Imagine a 24/7 headache for a period of three months or longer,” said Brian M. Plato, D.O., neurologist and headache specialist with Norton Neuroscience Institute. “We’re seeing a lot of individuals who were sick with COVID-19 months ago. Even though they no longer have the virus, they still continue to have headaches as a predominant and lingering symptom.”

New daily persistent headache is a condition that previously has been associated with a variety of triggering events, including viral infections. According to Dr. Plato, the spike in headaches following a COVID-19 diagnosis is something that neurologists and headache specialists expect to continue to see.

“To be honest, this is something that I’m not surprised about,” Dr. Plato said. “However, I think it’s the persistence of headache among these patients that has been different from previous viruses.”

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Treatment options for headaches after COVID-19

As COVID-19 is a relatively new disease, experts are still searching for the best treatments for lingering headaches, according to Dr. Plato.

“For some [patients], they get better on their own as time goes on,” he said. “But for those who have more persistent symptoms, probably the thing we’re finding to be most effective might be to put them on a course of steroids. We’re also using our other medicines for migraine on a daily preventive basis and an as-needed basis.”

When to see a doctor

According to Dr. Plato, individuals who are experiencing lingering headaches after a COVID-19 diagnosis shouldn’t just assume the symptom is going to get better on its own.

“I’m seeing people who are coming in with life-altering, lasting effects of COVID-19,” he said. “It may not be making headlines like people dying from the disease, but they’re living now with really significant headaches that are impairing their ability to go to work, their ability to be with their family. The lasting effects are quite disabling.

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“If you’re not seeing improvement after recovering from the virus, you might want to start talking to a medical professional, whether it’s your primary care doctor or coming to see a neurologist.”

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