A New Coronavirus Symptom Emerges: COVID Toes

Covid-19 Feet, Coronavirus, University Foot and Ankle Institute Los Angeles

As COVID-19 continues its global sweep, new information about this pandemic continues to be discovered. The symptoms commonly attributed to COVID-19 include fever, cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, chills (sometimes strong enough to cause shaking), muscle pain, headache, and a sore throat.

But it’s becoming more and more apparent that many of those who are hosting the COVID-19 virus remain completely asymptomatic. And asymptomatic COVID-19 hosts can be carriers of COVID-19. In other words, people who are not displaying any COVID-19 symptoms can unwittingly have the virus, and they can transmit that virus to others.

Only 1% of the US population has been tested for coronavirus

At the time of this writing, barely 1% of the United States population has been tested for COVID-19. So, it’s clearly impossible to know how many asymptomatic carriers of COVID-19 there are in our country. Asymptomatic COVID-19 hosts are literally clueless as to their condition remaining blissfully ignorant of the potential threat they pose to everyone they encounter.

Each potential COVID symptom can be a warning sign

All this anonymity of potential COVID-19 carriers makes it even more important to have as many ways of identifying those carrying the COVID-19 virus as possible. For example, every potential symptom can be a valuable clue. A sudden loss of the ability to smell or taste was added to the list of COVID-19 symptoms a few weeks ago, and several coronavirus patients with only that one symptom have tested positive for COVID-19.

COVID Toes may be a sign of asymptomatic COVID-19 patients

By now you’ve got to be wondering what all this has to do with podiatry. Well, a brand-new potential clue/symptom of the coronavirus pandemic has emerged, and it has been dubbed COVID Toes.

The Spanish General Counsel of Podiatrist Colleges issued a case report informing health professionals that numerous cases of COVID-19 patients in France, Italy, and Spain are experiencing blisters on their feet “similar to those of chickenpox or measles”.

“They are purple lesions (very similar to those of chickenpox, measles or chilblains) which usually appear on the toes and normally heal without leaving a mark,” the group said.

What are chilblains?

The bumps are similar to a condition known as pernio, a.k.a. chilblains. Pernio is defined by the National Institute of Health (NHS) as “itchy and/or tender red or purple bumps that occur as a reaction to cold weather.” Pernio is generally attributed to inflammation of peripheral blood vessels in reaction to cold temperatures.

Viruses cause a systematic inflammation throughout the human body, so it would be characteristic of a virus like COVID-19 to cause a localized inflammation of surface blood vessels. Coronavirus can also cause vascular blood clotting, which could also result in pernio-like bumps.

The International Federation of Podiatrists issued a curious finding on the Italian case of a 13-year-old boy with lesions on his feet which blistered and festered two days before he developed a fever, muscle pain, and headache. All his symptoms resolved without treatment.

While the boy was not tested for COVID-19, both his mother and sister displayed the full array of coronavirus symptoms, beginning about a week before the boy’s COVID Toes first appeared. This case conforms to the majority of other reports; COVID Toes generally appear on the feet of young people under 15.

While the symptom of COVID Toes generally resolves on its own, treatment with hydrocortisone ointment does seem to hasten healing.

It’s important to know that red, swollen toes may be a COVID-19 symptom

The American Academy of Dermatology has started a registry, so that healthcare providers whose patients have skin lesions and the COVID-19 virus can share information.

While the evidence thus far is too scant to establish a direct one-to-one relationship between COVID Toes and the coronavirus disease itself, healthcare providers are becoming alert to the possible significance of otherwise inexplicable foot lesions. Every clue can be helpful.

Why choose University Foot and Ankle Institute for your foot and ankle care?

If you’re experiencing any foot or ankle problems, we’re here to help. Our nationally recognized foot and ankle specialists offer the most advanced podiatric care and the highest success rates in the nation. We are leaders in the research and treatment of all foot and ankle conditions.

For more information or to schedule a consultation, please call (877) 736-6001 or make an appointment online now.

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