Can an ENT Help With Symptoms That Remain After COVID?
Are you dealing with the lingering effects of COVID-19? A coronavirus infection doesn’t always fade into the rearview mirror after it’s over. For some people, post-COVID symptoms can last anywhere from a few weeks to several months. What can you do if you’re still struggling with dizziness, headaches, loss of taste, loss of smell and other troubling symptoms long past coming back from quarantine?
We don’t yet know just how sustained some long-haul COVID symptoms truly are because not enough time has passed to study the “how” and “when” of getting back to 100 percent. It’s easy to feel like you will be stuck feeling this way “forever” when nobody can provide you with answers. But, you’re not the only one. Scientists estimate that long-term symptoms affect as many as 1 in 4 patients regardless of how severe the initial illness was. The good news is that an Ear, Nose, and Throat (ENT) doctor may be able to help with these long-haul symptoms. Here’s everything that you need to know about how an ENT may be able to help with post-COVID symptoms.
How Many People Experience Long COVID?
Research released at the end of 2021 found that more than half of the 236 million people diagnosed with COVID-19 worldwide since December 2019 experience post-COVID symptoms. It’s believed that 10% of people infected with COVID-19 will experience what are considered symptoms of long COVID. Post-COVID symptoms can be highly frustrating when you’re attempting to resume your life after an infection. While you may feel alone in your experience, the thing to know is that experiencing long COVID symptoms is not rare. It’s also important to seek medical care to address your symptoms.
Unfortunately, many primary care doctors are overwhelmed at the moment. What’s more, they often don’t have the specialized expertise to address the highly individualized symptoms that many people experience in the post-COVID phase. There is often little support for specific systems beyond running routine blood and imaging tests that may not address the systems experiencing symptoms. For many people, seeing an ear, nose, and throat (ENT) doctor is a way to get to the bottom of troubling symptoms. Take a look at why seeing an ENT may be the most crucial step you take in understanding long-COVID symptoms.
What Are the Common Symptoms of Long COVID That an ENT Can Potentially Help With?
Long COVID can take many forms. However, many people dealing with lingering COVID symptoms experience a sense of being “off” from the shoulders up. Here’s a look at common post-COVID symptoms:
- Tinnitus (ringing in the ears).
- Loss of taste.
- Loss of smell.
It’s not entirely surprising that these symptoms linger after COVID due to the fact that ENT manifestations are commonly reported during infection. While ENT manifestations are not as prevalent as fever and cough, they represent a sizable portion of possible COVID symptoms. An analysis from 2020 looking at 1,173 laboratory-confirmed positive COVID-19 patients identified the following ENT manifestation rates:
- Sore throat: 11.3%
- Headache: 10.7%
- Pharyngeal erythema: 5.3%
- Nasal congestion: 4.1%)
- Runny nose (rhinorrhea): 2.1%
- Upper respiratory tract infection (URTI): 1.9%
- Tonsil enlargement: 1.3%
Symptoms related to ENT manifestations should be expected to clear up within a few days of the end of your illness. While reports of long COVID are common, the fact remains that lingering symptoms should not be brushed off as normal. Health professionals recommend seeking medical help for lingering COVID systems affecting any part of the body. Booking an appointment with an ENT doctor can help you directly address the lingering symptoms affecting you.
Why Does COVID Affect Taste and Smell?
The answer isn’t fully known. While an overwhelming number of people with COVID experience losses of taste and smell, the exact reason why “sensory loss” is so predominant with COVID-19 isn’t known. Researchers and physicians do have some robust theories about the causes. One possible explanation is that COVID upper respiratory infections create congestion and drainage issues that can prevent the nerves responsible for smell from accessing odors. Another possibility is that inflammation within the nasal cavity is impairing the function of olfactory nerves that are responsible for your sense of smell. However, this doesn’t necessarily explain why those suffering from long COVID experience extended losses of taste and smell.
Vertigo and Dizziness After COVID: What You Need to Know
Vertigo (room spinning sensation) is usually caused by an issue in the inner ear. Sometimes a viral infection can cause something called labyrinthitis, which can cause hearing loss and tinnitus in addition to the vertigo. Sometimes a viral infection may also trigger BPPV (benign paroxysmal positional vertigo) which can be diagnosed and treated by an ENT physician. This is short episodes of intense vertigo triggered by position changes. After an upper respiratory infection like COVID, you can also get build up of fluid behind your ear drum which can make people off balance. This is typically associated with decreased hearing and ear pressure as well.
Can Headaches, Dizziness, Vertigo, Loss of Taste and Loss of Smell After COVID Be Treated?
There may be options for getting relief from lingering symptoms associated with COVID. The most important thing is to book an appointment to have a medical professional look at the area where you’re experiencing pain or discomfort. This will help to rule out any obvious obstructions or inflammatory sources. Additionally, there are many commonly used ENT therapies for relieving headaches, dizziness, vertigo and more that may be effectively applied for symptoms of long COVID. Of course, it’s important to be realistic about the potential for treating symptoms that may not have a direct ENT cause. Some long-term COVID-related symptoms may need to be treated by professionals other than ENT specialists.
How Can I Talk to an ENT About Long COVID Symptoms in Louisville, Central Kentucky and Southern Indiana?
Offering eight locations throughout Kentucky and Indiana, Advanced ENT and Allergy is here to help you address any concerns. Our staff is committed to helping our patients find relief. In addition to providing consultations at our eight offices, Advanced ENT and Allergy is proud also to offer telehealth appointments. Please call (502) 995-5525 today to book your appointment.