As dermatologists, we are familiar with the many ways viral infections can manifest on the skin. Like other viral illnesses, the current viral pandemic of COVID-19 has been shown to cause skin changes as well.
COVID-19 Symptom: COVID Toes
A small percentage of those positive for COVID-19 are showing signs of an unusual rash on the toes called pernio, also known as chilblains. This looks like small red, purple spots and bumps on the toes and fingers that can itch, burn, and cause some pain or discomfort. In normal times, pernio occurs when the blood vessels are damaged by cold, damp conditions. Our COVID-19 patients that have these rashes on their toes are not the result of cold exposure as the average daily temperatures rise this spring. So what is the process by which the corona virus causes these skin changes that look like perio? Why is this occurring? What does it mean if someone who has COVID-19 has this rash?
Unfortunately, we do not have all the answers. What dermatologists and other medical doctors have found is some good news. “COVID toes” seem to resolve spontaneously within 2-3 weeks and often occur during the convalescent (or healing) stage of COVID-19. These pernio-like spots on the toes are more common in adolescents and younger adults, and otherwise healthy individuals. Rarely, there have been documented cases of COVID toes in some of the more severe cases of COVID-19 in patients in the ICU or requiring ventilator assistance to breathe, but this is not often the case.
If you are concerned that you may have COVID toes or any rash, it is best to consult a Board Certified Dermatologist. Blood work and other tests may be necessary to find the cause of the rash and manage it appropriately. The American Academy of Dermatology is collecting a registry of case reports of rashes associated with COVID-19 to help physicians and the patients we serve learn more about the corona virus and how it affects our body.