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Surprising Side Effects From COVID

Experts warn these strange side effects can happen as a result of COVID. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

Although it feels like COVID has been around forever, the pandemic officially began in March of 2020 and there's still many unknown things about the virus. But one thing is for sure–it affects everyone differently and many continue to have lingering symptoms for quite some time. In addition, there's unexpected side effects that medical experts reveal can happen. Eat This, Not That! Health not only talked with experts, but a COVID survivor who shares surprising side effects of COVID to be aware of. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Hearing Loss

Woman touching her ears.

Dr. Sunjya Schweig, MD and Founder at California Center for Functional Medicine says, "Because COVID is a viral infection, it has been found to affect cells in the inner ear. The virus enters the nose and can go through the Eustachian tube, connecting the nose to the middle ear. Once there, it can actively infect the cochlear section of the ear, affecting hearing. This has been seen in other viral infections as well, such as with the flu. Additionally, because COVID can affect almost every major organ system of the body, it can also affect the vascular system. If the blood vessels that supply blood to the ear are damaged or blocked due to COVID, it can additionally affect the cochlea organ. Because of this location, hearing loss or tinnitus – a ringing sensation in the ear – can follow acute Covid infection. While this often clears up after acute infection, there have been reports of lingering hearing loss or tinnitus in people dealing with long Covid." 


Menstrual Changes and Erectile Dysfunction

Sad man sitting on a bed, girlfriend in the background.

According to Dr. Schweig, "Studies have found that both men and women report sexual and reproductive system issues after getting infected with COVID. Because COVID can affect every body system, this includes the endocrine system that rules our hormone management. Many people state they have been experiencing irregular periods, unusual clotting in their period blood, and worsening PMS. Long COVID can impact the male reproductive system as the testes are one of the highest sites of ACE2 expression – the ACE2 enzyme being the main way that SARS-CoV-2 can enter cells. Additionally, the virus can damage cells that are on the surface of blood vessels, which is often present in erectile dysfunction and low testosterone levels."


Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

Vertigo illness concept. Man hands on his head felling headache dizzy sense of spinning dizziness,a problem with the inner ear, brain, or sensory nerve pathway.

Gita Castallian, MPH Director of Programs at Functional Medicine Research and Technology Center explains, "Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a component of long Covid. The most common autonomic dysfunction diagnosed in the US, it involves excessive increases in heart rate when someone changes from lying down or sitting to standing. This happens because the body's autonomic nervous system fails to control your blood pressure and heart rate in an adequate manner to react to the change in posture. Along with this are other symptoms of debilitating fatigue, exercise intolerance, brain fog, and hypotension. POTS has been caused by other viral infections in the past and is confirmed as connected to COVID infection (Ref). In fact, so many COVID patients are developing POTS symptoms that it is now being dubbed post-COVID POTS."



Tired woman holding her head with her hands.

Tracey O'Shea, FNP-C Nurse Practitioner at California Center for Functional Medicine shares, "The neurological and psychiatric impact of COVID appears to impact as many as one-third of its survivors, with sleep disturbances –this includes delayed sleep onset and difficulty staying asleep– in particular being on the rise. It appears to be impacting survivors both in the early recovery phase (just a few weeks after COVID) and for longer than 6 months for those diagnosed with long COVID. A study in Lancet Psychiatry found that 5.4% of all patients in the study experienced insomnia, the number increased with infection severity and need for hospitalization, jumping significantly upon hospital-entry to 6% and again to 7.5% and 10% for Intensive-Therapy-Unit–admitted patients." 


Gut Issues

mature woman dealing with bad gut health, stomach pain on bed

O'Shea explains, "We are seeing a rise in digestive issues associated with COVID-19 infections.These disturbances can range from abdominal pain with nausea, vomiting to heartburn, diarrhea and/or constipation. A review of more than 25,000 patients found that about 18% experienced gastrointestinal symptoms. They are often reported to persist for a few days during initial infection, resolve and then return again. Researchers suspect that the composition of the gut microbiome is strongly linked with the type and severity of long-COVID symptoms that patients experience (Ref). More research is needed to fully understand this connection but what we do know is that the range of gut symptoms can vary drastically and they tend to persist for long-COVID sufferers." 


Insightful Perspective From COVID Survivor

Portrait of doctor with face mask and clipboard looking at camera in hospital.

Maya McNulty, is a COVID survivor who was hospitalized for 69 days, was in a coma and on a ventilator. She now runs a large support group for patients called COVID Wellness Clinic and shares, "There are several post COVID19 surprising effects that happen to some and not others. For example, loss of taste and smell. Some have gained a tremendous amount of weight because of loss of taste and smell while others have lost weight because of the same issues. 

Another is COVID black and blue bruising. Surprisingly, the high D-dimer blood clot can be misleading. Some people experience blood clotting and others have symptoms but no clotting. I would allude to it being caused by dead COVID blood cells. Also, the skin rashes, itchy palms, face, skin and feet. While Covid toes are common among long Covid the itchy palms, face, skin and feet are significantly different. The vertigo and tinnitus has also been reported by some people and not others. 

Finally, I would add mental health. There's three different buckets to address. Bucket #1. Patients who have been clinically diagnosed by a medical professional and were infected with Covid. They are NOT suffering from long Covid but the prior condition is still being treated or worsening. Bucket #2 Suffering from Long Covid and prior clinical diagnosis of mental health. Health has worsened. The doctors can measure this because the patient had a baseline prior to Covid.  Bucket #3 No prior medical conditions and had self diagnosed medical health conditions because of the lack of expertises surrounding Long Covid and mental health. These people have been gaslite. They also have thoughts on harming themselves because they are not believed. Some long haulers also believed that they indeed have newly diagnosed medical conditions while others are not believed."


How to Stay Safe Out There


Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don't travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don't go indoors with people you're not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don't visit any of these 35 Places You're Most Likely to Catch COVID.

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather