'COVID toes': Lesions on patients' feet, toes linked to coronavirus

'COVID toes': Lesions on patients' feet, toes linked to coronavirus

Health professionals say some coronavirus patients have had blue or purple lesions appear on the feet or toes, a new symptom that is being referred to as “COVID toes.” 

Ebbing Lautenbach, a doctor who serves as chief of infectious disease at the University of Pennsylvania's School of Medicine, told USA Today that the lesions are “typically painful to touch and could have a hot burning sensation.”

“This is a manifestation that occurs early on in the disease, meaning you have this first, then you progress,” he continued. “Sometimes this might be your first clue that they have COVID when they don’t have any other symptoms.”

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According to USA Today, the symptom has mostly appeared in children and adults and younger adults who would otherwise generally be asymptomatic. 

Lautenbach said the symptom goes away in some cases in less than two weeks. However, he added the symptom can signal the start of other problems for some patients.

Experts are still working to understand what causes the symptom. However, in Massachusetts, one doctor, Susan Wilcox, told the paper that she has seen the purple lesions appear in some COVID-19 patients that are in critical condition.

Wilcox told the paper that she thinks purpura fulminans could be the culprit. According to the National Center for Biotechnology Information, purpura fulminans is “an acute purpuric rash characterized by coagulation of the microvasculature, which leads to purpuric lesions and skin necrosis.”

Wilcox has also reported seeing purpura fulminans appear in serious flu and pneumonia cases. 

“You get the infection, and then your body will release a cascade of inflammation,” she told the paper. “In many ways, it’s beneficial, but then sometimes it can either be too much, so the inflammation can lead to its own damage.”