Literature Review (Grey)
Headache is a common symptom of COVID-19 with emerging literature being published on the subject. Although it may seem unspecific, scientific evidence has allowed a better definition of this headache type, revealing relevant associations with other COVID-19 symptoms and prognoses. In this article the author sought to highlight the most remarkable findings concerning headache secondary to COVID-19, specifically focusing on epidemiology, characteristics, pathophysiology, and treatments.
The real prevalence of headache as a symptom of COVID-19 is still unclear ranging from 10 to 70%. Headache mainly has a tension-type-like phenotype, although 25% of individuals present with migraine-like features that also occur in patients without personal migraine history. This finding suggests that a likely pathophysiological mechanism is the activation of the trigeminovascular system. SARS-CoV-2 neurotropism can occur by trans-synaptic invasion through the olfactory route from the nasal cavity, leading to anosmia which has been associated with headache. SARS-CoV-2 protein has been found not only in olfactory mucosa and bulbs but also in trigeminal branches and the trigeminal ganglion, supporting this hypothesis. However, other mechanisms such as brain vessels inflammation due to SARS-CoV-2 damage to the endothelium or systemic inflammation in the context of cytokine storm cannot be ruled out. Interestingly, headache has been associated with lower COVID-19 mortality. No specific treatment for COVID-19 headache is available at present. Studies show that investigating COVID-19 headache represents an opportunity not only to better understand COVID-19 in general but also to advance in the knowledge of both secondary and primary headaches. Future research is therefore warranted.
Caronna E, Pozo-Rosich P. Headache as a Symptom of COVID-19: Narrative Review of 1-Year Research. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2021 Nov 11;25(11):73. doi: 10.1007/s11916-021-00987-8.