Bengaluru: Viruses mutate rapidly and Covid-19 being a viral infection is no exception. After the first Covid-19 case was reported in China in late 2019, its most important early signs and symptoms included high fever, coughing, breathlessness, etc. Identification of these early symptoms helped to isolate and treat patients early in the disease state to reduce related morbidity and mortality. Over time, the virus eventually evolved, giving rise to newer signs and symptoms. In the current scenario, both physicians and patients need to watch out for these newer symptoms to effectively tackle the spread of the deadly contagion.
Evolution of symptoms
During the first wave, the most common symptoms of Covid-19 were fever, persistent cough, shortness of breath, loss of smell, etc. In addition to these, symptoms such as sore throat, diarrhoea, abdominal pain, discolouration of fingers and toes were reported during the second wave. Most recently, early signs and symptoms such as hearing loss, acute and throbbing headache, dry mouth, conjunctivitis etc., are being reported with or without the classical signs and symptoms of the infection.
Hearing loss: Reversible and irreversible
Evidence suggests Covid-19 to be associated with hearing loss, vertigo (dizziness) and tinnitus (ringing in the ears). The virus also increases the risk of ear infections and high ear pressure. The cause of these symptoms is thought to be related to virus-induced clot formation or inflammation in the auditory nerve. Some patients have also reported a sudden and irreversible sensorineural hearing loss. Experts also believe that sore throat, one of the many symptoms of Covid-19, can cause earaches (ear pain).
Acute and throbbing headaches
In some cases, acute and throbbing headaches may be the only symptom present in a patient. Patients with no medical history of migraine, accompanied by high temperature and severe headache should watch out for Covid-19. Other warning symptoms include headache unresponsive to treatment, increased headache severity while coughing, and intolerance to sound and light.
About 1-3% of Covid-19 infected patients reported conjunctivitis or commonly known as the pink eye, characterised by red, swollen and itchy eyes. This happens when the virus infects the white part of the eyes. Though there may be several other causes for conjunctivitis, patients should consult a physician to rule out a Covid-19 infection.
Dry mouth has been identified as another new early sign of Covid-19 and is commonly referred to as the ‘Covid tongue’. It has been described by some patients as extreme dryness of the mouth, pain, irritation and itching of the tongue. Such patients may not have any other symptoms of Covid-19.
Covid-19 continues to cripple us with its ability to rapidly mutate and infect millions worldwide. In our efforts to fight the pandemic successfully, we must continue to follow Covid-19 appropriate behaviour and get vaccinated at the earliest. It is also important for the general public to be well aware of the newer signs and symptoms to enable early treatment to avoid health complications. It will also help to quickly isolate positive cases and prevent the spread of the infection.
(The writer is a Consultant – Ear, Nose & Throat at Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road)