‘Covid Toe’: Possible new coronavirus symptom involves inflammation and painful lesions on the toes

Health officials from around the world have, from time to time, come forward to reveal what they believe are newly discovered symptoms of a COVID-19 infection, and some of those potential coronavirus-related symptoms are then added to the list if enough experts form a consensus.

Doctors are now reporting a new and entirely unexpected symptom of a coronavirus infection — small red or purple lesions on toes that are often itchy and painful, which has unofficially been dubbed “Covid Toe,” The New York Times reported.

Inflammation and lesions on the toes

The condition is more formally known as chilblains, and those painful lesions that appear on fingers and toes are most commonly seen in the winter months when a person’s extremities can become inflamed due to cold and damp conditions.

Yet, a dermatologist at the University of California in San Francisco named Dr. Lindy Fox, who would typically only see a handful of chilblain cases in an entire year, has reportedly dealt with dozens of such cases in just the past few weeks.

“All of a sudden, we are inundated with toes,” Dr. Fox told the Times. “I’ve got clinics filled with people coming in with new toe lesions. And it’s not people who had chilblains before — they’ve never had anything like this.”

Nor is Dr. Fox alone in noticing the toe trend, as a dermatologist in Boston, Dr. Esther Freeman, has reported a similar occurrence in her area. Similarly, there have recently been medical papers issued by European nations like Belgium, Italy, and Spain that discuss a rise in the development of lesions on patients’ toes, heels, and foot soles.

Most often associated with younger patients who’ve had mild infections

As of yet, “Covid Toe” has not been added to the official list of coronavirus symptoms, but that may very well change soon as dermatologists and doctors push for it, especially as inclusion on the list of symptoms would allow for it to make a patient eligible for coronavirus testing.

One of the more interesting aspects of the “Covid Toe” trend is that it appears to occur mostly in children and young adults and often when those individuals had only a mild or otherwise asymptomatic infection. Furthermore, the lesions also tend to appear after the worst phase of the infection has passed.

“The good news is that the chilblain-like lesions usually mean you’re going to be fine,” Fox told the Times. “Usually it’s a good sign your body has seen Covid and is making a good immune reaction to it.”

What to look for

The chilblains, as well as other rashes on the skin, are often the result of inflammation — one of the commonly agreed-upon symptoms of coronavirus — that occur in either the walls of blood vessels or as the result of micro clots in the bloodstream. And, though uncomfortable or even painful, such inflammation is also viewed as a signal that the body’s immune system is fighting back against the viral infection.

The Times reported that this condition typically begins with red and swollen toes that eventually develop bumps or lesions that later take on a more purplish hue. The lesions can also cause a burning or itching sensation that, in some cases, can become extremely painful and make walking, or even putting on socks and shoes, difficult if not impossible.

It will be interesting to see if “Covid Toe” ends up being added to the list of coronavirus symptoms and if an in-depth study is ever undertaken to determine exactly how widespread this potential symptom is and whether it is actually caused by, or merely a slightly related by-product to, a COVID-19 infection.

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