Since the start of the pandemic, epidemiologists have been stumped on the potential symptoms that the disease brings to those it infects. As COVID-19 continues to spread, more confirmed symptoms are being discovered. In addition to the most tell-tale symptoms (fever, shortness of breath, and dry cough), COVID-19 has also shown up as conjunctivitis, skin rashes, and digestive issues like diarrhea. But, in recent months, dermatologists have been investigating yet another potential symptom of COVID-19––COVID toes.
What Are COVID Toes?
The news of COVID toes originally surfaced after a press release on April 9, when podiatrists in the General Council of Official Colleges of Podiatrists in Spain began documenting numerous cases of sick people, mainly children and young people, who had small dermatological lesions on their feet––in the absence of typical COVID-19 symptoms.
These lesions, per the council, are “purple-colored” and typically appear around the tips of the toes. The marks look similar to those that result from the chickenpox, measles, or pernio. But, are they actually a true symptom of the disease?
The First Case of COVID Toes
In April, the International Federation of Podiatrists published a case of similar findings, describing a 13-year-old boy who had lesions on both feet––but showed no symptoms of having the coronavirus. Two days later, he showed classic COVID-19 symptoms: fever, headache, and muscle pain, along with intense burning and irritation in his feet.
The boy was never tested for COVID-19, but his mother displayed typical COVID-19 symptoms, and later tested positive. After about a week, the boy’s symptoms began to clear up. Since there was no initial testing, we can’t say for sure that the young boy contracted COVID-19, but from his family’s symptoms, it would be likely this was the case.
An Unusual Reaction to the Coronavirus
While it’s not clear why this reaction may be happening with COVID-19 patients, it is possible that it could have something to do with the way the virus stimulates inflammation. It could be “localized inflammation” or microclots. In fact, a strange amount of patients ill and asymptomatic are being found to have blood clots along with positive COVID-19 tests.
This reaction can be likened to the same response of pernio (an inflammatory response to cold temperatures), which involves the clamping down of small blood vessels. Many doctors believe that this is the body’s natural response to the inflammation of the COVID-19 virus.
COVID Toes Are a Bit of a Question Mark
Despite multiple findings of the COVID toes phenomenon, there isn’t enough evidence to prove that skin conditions are yet another odd symptom of the coronavirus. Right now, it’s too much of a coincidence not to be a manifestation of the virus in young children and people in their 20s.
However, finding out that this is an early sign of the virus could help us prevent the spread sooner, before other symptoms like fever, cough, and body aches begin. We still have so much to unpack about the coronavirus, but we believe that COVID toes could be a very important start.
As usual, if you notice any other COVID-19 related symptoms, it’s best to contact your healthcare provider––who can best assist you to the right treatment.
For more information about COVID-19, check out our blog on our website.