As the world continues to grapple with the outbreak of COVID-19, scientists and medical professionals are working tirelessly to understand more about the virus and how it affects the human body. One area still being explored is the relationship between COVID-19 and peripheral neuropathy.
The relationship between COVID-19 and peripheral neuropathy is still being explored; however, in a study performed by the Washington School of Medicine, 1,500 people who tested positive for COVID-19 in 2020 were three times more likely to report pain, numbness or tingling in their hands and feet.
While the study does not provide an established diagnosis of neuropathy that is related to COVID-19, it does suggest there may be a link between the two. Further research is needed to confirm this relationship and to understand more about how COVID-19 affects the nervous system.
What is peripheral neuropathy?
Peripheral neuropathy currently affects more than 20 million people in the United States. Symptoms of this condition can cause tingling, numbness, pain, or weakness in the hands and feet. In some cases, peripheral neuropathy can also lead to problems with balance and coordination.
Peripheral neuropathy can cause various symptoms, including pain, tingling, numbness and weakness in the hands and feet. Peripheral neuropathy is often caused by diabetes or other underlying health conditions.
What’s the relationship between peripheral neuropathy and COVID-19?
In regards to the Washington University School of Medicine study, the chief of clinical research at Washington University’s Pain Center, Simon Haroutounian, Ph.D., stated that “almost 30% of individuals who tested positive for COVID-19 had symptoms at the time of their diagnosis, and that 6% to 7% of them had persistent problems in their peripheral nerves for at least two weeks.”
This suggests that there may be a relationship between COVID-19 and peripheral neuropathy; however, it is still too early to say for certain. More research is needed to confirm this link and understand how COVID-19 affects the nervous system.
In one case study of COVID-19-induced chronic demyelinating polyneuropathy or CIDP, it was found that a 69-year-old female with a history of diabetes, hyperthyroidism and hypertension was hospitalized, testing positive for COVID-19. After a 40-day stay, an electromyography was done, which revealed severe axonal neuropathy with demyelinating features in the lower, upper and cervical nerves, suggesting the onset of CIDP.
While the study presents a new association between neuropathy and a SARS-CoV-2 infection, or COVID-19, more research is needed to confirm a causal link.
Does COVID-19 cause peripheral neuropathy?
There are many causes of peripheral neuropathy, including diabetes, chemotherapy and certain viral infections. Causes of peripheral neuropathy can vary from person to person, and in the case of COVID-19, it is still too early to say for certain if the virus is a direct cause of peripheral neuropathy.
There isn’t enough evidence to say that COVID-19 causes peripheral neuropathy, but there is a suggested link. A 2020 study from the Neurology Department of Massachusetts General Hospital found that among 17 patients with SARS-CoV-2 onset, one with severe symptoms had confirmed sensorimotor polyneuropathy.
Does the COVID-19 vaccine cause peripheral neuropathy?
With any new vaccine, there is always the potential for side effects. The most common side effects of the COVID-19 vaccine are soreness, redness or swelling at the injection site, fever, chills, fatigue and headache. In rare cases, people have reported allergic reactions to the vaccine.
In a study from January to September 2021, 23 patients were examined for a new onset of neuropathy symptoms within a month of SARS-CoV-2 immunization. Three patients had symptoms of dysautonomia and small fiber neuropathy for five-nine months. Once treated with intravenous therapy, two patients’ problems subsided.
Though no causal link has been established, this study found that there may be a connection between the vaccine and the development of polyneuropathy.
Treatment methods for COVID-19-related neuropathy symptoms
There is no known cure for peripheral neuropathy, but there are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms. These include pain relief medication, physical therapy, acupuncture and electrical stimulation. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to correct the condition’s underlying cause.
For COVID-19-related neuropathy, treatment will focus on COVID-19 recovery and relieving any persisting neuropathy symptoms. This may include pain medication, physical therapy and electrical stimulation. If the cause is an underlying viral infection, treatment will also focus on fighting the infection.
The link between COVID-19 and peripheral neuropathy is still being investigated. There is not enough evidence to say for certain if the virus causes peripheral neuropathy, but there is a suggested connection. Research is ongoing to confirm this link and to understand more about how COVID-19 affects the nervous system. In the meantime, treatment for COVID-19-related neuropathy will focus on symptom relief and recovery from the virus.
WinSanTor is a clinical-stage biotechnology company focused on the discovery and development of treatments for peripheral neuropathies. We believe in creating a solution that works and brings relief to millions who are struggling with this disease. Learn more about our company, our drug and subscribe to our newsletter.
- “COVID-19 infection linked to higher risk of neuropathy symptoms”. Washington University School of Medicine
- “Peripheral Neuropathy Fact Sheet”. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
- “Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polyradiculoneuropathy”. Hopkins Medicine
- “A Rare Case of COVID-19-Induced Chronic Demyelinating Polyneuropathy”. Cereus
- “Peripheral Neuropathy Evaluations of Patients With Prolonged Long COVID“. Neurology.org
- “NIH team documents various types of neuropathy after COVID vaccination“. News-Medical
- “Peripheral Neuropathy as a Complication of SARS-Cov-2“. National Library of Medicine