We came across a post on X that suggests that “COVID toes” could be a new symptom of COVID-19. The X account that circulated the claim is known for being a troll account, regularly posting inflammatory content to elicit polarising views and opinions from other X users.
What are COVID toes?
Doctors around the world have observed that some patients who have been infected with COVID-19 developed discoloured and swollen toes with a red or purplish rash that could be accompanied by blisters, itch, or pain. This condition, known as COVID toes, could also develop on one’s fingers.
Photo of Covid toes
|Photo of chilblains on fingers
|Photo credit: American Academy of Dermatology Association
Photo credit: NHS Inform
COVID toes have also been likened to another skin condition called chilblains due to their similar appearance and effects on the skin. Chilblains are itchy, swollen, and inflamed patches of skin that arise from exposure to cold temperatures. These generally affect the extremities of the body such as the toes, heels, fingers, and nose. Severe cases can also cause sores or blisters to form on the skin.
What causes COVID toes?
While chilblains are caused by cold temperatures, research suggests that COVID toes could be brought upon by several causes. These include our body’s immune system’s response to the virus that causes COVID-19 causing inflammation of the body, vasculitis – blood vessel damage from inflammation or swelling, and vessel thrombosis —blood clotting that occurs in blood vessels.
In addition, experts state that it is not uncommon for viral infections like COVID-19 to lead to rashes or skin lesions. However, while it is not conclusive that COVID-19 causes COVID toes, researchers have also been unable to definitively link chilblains to COVID-19.
Are COVID toes a new symptom of COVID-19?
Although COVID toes are rather rare, they are not a new symptom associated with COVID-19. The earliest reports of COVID toes date back to 2020, rather early on in the pandemic where patients who reported having COVID-19 symptoms also reported developing symptoms of COVID toes.
Hence, the claim that COVID toes are a new symptom associated with COVID-19 is false.
Although COVID toes have been observed in some patients with COVID-19, with experts differing on the causes of COVID toes, it is unclear if the symptom is actually caused by the virus.
Patients with COVID-19 infections presenting with COVID toes typically also exhibit other COVID-19 symptoms, indicating an infection by the virus. However, experiencing symptoms that appear to be COVID toes may be a sign of other infections, and may not necessarily be an indicator of a COVID-19 infection.
Therefore, the definite way of determining an infection or disease is through proper testing.