COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University
COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

Are ‘covid toes’ a telltale sign of virus?

Rumour has it an unusual new symptom of coronavirus might be afoot.

Doctors have reported that some patients have been found to have red, purple or blue lesions on their feet when presenting with other coronavirus symptoms.

The lesions were first reported on April 9 in Spain, where the General Council of Official Colleges of Podiatrists released a statement detailing "numerous cases of sick people, mainly children and young people, who had small dermatological lesions on their feet".

These lesions sometimes appeared alongside other COVID-19 symptoms, and sometimes independently of any other symptoms.

 

COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University
COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

The lesions are most commonly purple-coloured and found around the tips of the toes, though they often heal without leaving marks. The podiatrists' compared the lesions to those that result from chickenpox, measles or pernio (or chilblains), a vascular inflammatory disorder causing skin lesions and swelling in fingers and toes, particularly in cold moist climates.

 

It's yet to be established if the lesions are absolutely related to COVID, but the prevalence of cases both in Europe and across the US suggests it's more than a coincidence.

Dr Amy Paller, chair of dermatology at Northwestern University in Illinois, says that the lesions are most commonly seen in patients in their teens and 20s.

COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University
COVID toes. Picture: Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University

 

"We don't know for sure if it's related to COVID-19, but when it's so common right now during a pandemic and is occurring in otherwise asymptomatic or mildly affected patients, it seems too much of a coincidence not to be a manifestation of the virus for patients in their teens and 20s," she said.

"I think it's much more rampant than we even realise. The good news is it resolves spontaneously."

"Covid toes", as they've been dubbed, are typically painful to touch and might come with a hot burning sensation, according to the Chief of Infectious Disease at the University of Pennsylvania, Dr Ebbing Lautenbach.

Similar to the sudden loss of smell or taste, lesions have tended to appear in asymptomatic patients.

"This is a manifestation that occurs early on in the disease, meaning you have this first, then you progress," Lautenbach said.

"Sometimes this might be your first clue that they have COVID when they don't have any other symptoms."

Originally published as Are 'covid toes' a telltale sign of virus?



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