What are 'COVID toes', the potential new symptom of novel coronavirus infection?
First these red/purple toe lesions were found among patients in Italy, now they're being found in USA as well. Do we have a new atypical symptom of COVID-19? Scroll down to get all the details on 'COVID toes'.
With more than 2 lakh deaths across the globe, the medical and scientific communities are still uncovering new details about the novel coronavirus infection every day. The latest in the line is a possible symptom which is being dubbed as 'COVID toes'.
Purple and swollen toes that look like they've been frostbitten may be the latest indication of coronavirus infection, doctors say.
Dermatologists in Europe and America are now discussing whether purple or blue toe lesions can be a potential new symptom for COVID-19. This might even help diagnose the asymptomatic cases as these have appeared in otherwise asymptomatic and severe cases alike.
However, so far there have been no conclusive studies to validate this particular phenomenon as a symptom.
What is it?
According to doctors, the condition is much like frostbite or pernio, which is a condition found among people living in harsh winters in polar and sub-polar regions. Here blood vessels in the toes get aggravated inflammation and toes tend to have serious spasm.
In the context of COVID-19, COVID toes were first observed in Italy, where several people living in high-risk zones developed these. Now similar deramatological phenomenons are being reported from the USA as well.
The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) in collaboration with Dr. Esther Freeman is managing a registry to track the dermatological effects that COVID-19 virus patients may be experiencing. Dr. Freeman, a dermatologist and epidemiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and a faculty member at Harvard Medical school, told Business Insider that round half of the cases in the registry note these lesions in the hands or feet that resemble frostbite.
- “They’re typically painful to touch and could have a hot burning sensation,” Dr. Ebbing Lautenbach, chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine told USA Today.
- Lautenbach said that COVID toes are disproportionately present in children and young adults, who may otherwise be asymptomatic or test negative at early stages of the virus.
- Intriguingly, the most severe COVID-19 patients also exhibited COVID toes, said Susan Wilcox, Massachusetts General Hospital’s chief of critical care for the emergency department, who told USA Today that this symptom is most common in patients with acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS).
- There are two possible explanations for COVID toes, according to Lautenbach: It could possibly be a localized inflammatory response to infection that presents in a person’s foot and toes, or it might be a blood vessel clot—more research would need to be done.
- Purple and blue lesions on the toes are also present in severe flu or viral pneumonia patients, according to Wilcox.
- No conclusive research has been done on COVID toes, experts warn, so all explanations and evidence are still anecdotal at this point.
Common symptoms of coronavirus include fever, tiredness, dry cough and some people can experience aches and pains, nasal congestion, runny nose, sore throat and diarrhea—among other symptoms—according to the World Health Organization (WHO). It generally takes five to six days from the point of infection for someone to begin presenting with symptoms of the disease, though it can take up to 14 days—and some cases are totally asymptomatic. And it's asymptomatic manifestation in most people is what makes COVID-19 a pandemic.
This means that people without any typical symptoms can infect other people without anyone knowing. But recent observations suggest that these asymptomatic patients may not actually be truly asymptomatic. Sudden loss of smell or taste or having a pink eye is now recognised atypical symptoms.
COVID toes could also emerge as an atypical symptom, potentially leading to diagnosis of asymptomatic carriers. And in the coming days, many of those atypical symptoms could be identified as key indicators of novel coronavirus infection. However, we'd know for sure only after extensive reaseach is done and the WHO acknowledges it.