Covid symptoms could include numb feet – why is this?
The first time I caught COVID-19 I was in no doubt about what my symptoms meant.
I was sipping on a bottle of water when I realised, “This literally doesn’t taste of anything!”
Other classic signs of the infection quickly followed including muscle aches, chills, a cough and breathlessness.
Due to the restrictions at the time I spent a grand total of 11 days inside my home.
Fast forward almost two years later and I was about to test positive for Covid yet again, however, it was preceded by some very different warning signs this time.
It was a Monday evening when I noticed a strange sensation (or lack thereof) in my left foot – it had gone partially numb.
At first I considered it could just be pins and needles but throughout the night it continued to worsen until, by the morning, almost the entire foot was without feeling.
In medical terms this is known as peripheral neuropathy, which can also refer to numbness in the hands as well as the feet.
It can be caused by a number of health issues, including diabetes, nerve damage and certain vitamin deficiencies.
Having been deficient in vitamin B12 in the past I briefly considered that this could be the cause.
However, throughout the night I also developed a grating sore throat – one of the more traditional signs of Covid.
By Tuesday morning this was accompanied by a headache, fatigue, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting and diarrhoea.
The latter three symptoms were not ones I had experienced with my 2022 run-in with Covid but they are listed by the NHS as signs of the disease.
A lateral flow test, which immediately produced a solid red line, confirmed that I should stay inside and avoid contact with my housemates.
Luckily I had been inadvertently self-isolating in my room since Monday anyway due to the fact I did not feel well enough to venture outside.
It took a solid six days to recover this time, with the gastrointestinal symptoms taking longer to shake than the others.
Just under a week later I also produced a negative lateral flow test ending my confinement.
A few weeks on, however, and the feeling in my left foot has not yet fully returned.
Is there a link between Covid and numb feet?
Despite not being a commonly known symptom, a loss of feeling in the feet or hands was noted as a sign of coronavirus back in 2020.
One case report, published in the British Medical Journal that year, detailed how some patients with Covid also experience Guillain-Barré syndrome at the same time.
Guillain-Barré syndrome is a serious but rare disorder where the immune system attacks nerves in the body, typically starting with the peripheries.
The report, submitted by staff at Southend University Hospital NHS Foundation Trust in Essex, concluded: “At least four cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome have been reported in the literature with concurrent COVID-19 illness in whom respiratory signs appeared a few days after the onset of neurological signs.
“With the incubation period for COVID-19 respiratory symptoms believed to be up to 14 days, it is possible that neurological symptoms could develop before respiratory and other symptoms.”
Last year, researchers at the Washington University School of Medicine, found that pain, tingling and numbness in the hands and feet were perhaps more common with a Covid infection than you might expect.
They analysed data on more than 1,500 people who were tested for Covid during the first year of the pandemic.
They found that those who tested positive for the virus were about three times more likely to report pain, numbness or tingling in their hands and feet as those with negative tests.
In a university release, senior investigator Simon Haroutounian explained: “Several viral infections — such as HIV and shingles — are associated with peripheral neuropathy because viruses can damage nerves.
“We found that nearly 30 percent of patients who tested positive for COVID-19 also reported symptoms at the time of their diagnosis, and that for six percent to seven percent of them, the symptoms persisted for at least two weeks, and up to three months, suggesting this virus may have lingering effects on peripheral nerves.”
So while my other symptoms have cleared up judging by these findings I might be left with a numb foot for a little longer.
According to the NHS, the most common signs of Covid include:
- A high temperature or shivering (chills)
- A new, continuous cough
- A loss or change to your sense of smell or taste
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling tired or exhausted
- An aching body
- A headache
- A sore throat
- A blocked or runny nose
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling sick or being sick.