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What are 'COVID toes'? New skin condition possibly linked to coronavirus

A skin condition that's being called 'COVID toes' has been appearing recently in children and young adults who have no other coronavirus symptoms.

WASHINGTON — Doctors around the country are trying to figure out whether a new mysterious skin condition could be a possible sign of coronavirus in asymptomatic patients. 

The condition, informally being called "COVID toes" by some doctors, causes lesions or painful bumps, and sometimes frostbite-like areas of purple, blue or red discoloration in toes and sometimes fingers.    

Northwestern University Medicine dermatologist Dr. Amy Paller said she's seen large numbers of this popping up recently, mainly in teenagers and young adults. 

Dr. Paller, the chair of dermatology at Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine, said the lesions are sometimes itchy and often painful, but the individuals generally don't have any other signs of viral infections.

Researchers have noted similar cases recently in Italy, Spain and France, according to a report by the General Council of Official Colleges of Podiatrists in Spain. 

Dr. Paller said because testing has been so limited, they can't definitively say yet whether or not the condition is linked to coronavirus. 

"We're seeing this in unprecedented numbers during a COVID pandemic, so we have to think that there might be a relationship," Dr. Paller explained to Chicago's WGN-TV.  

She added that it appears similar to a condition known as pernio, which happens in response to the cold, but "COVID toes" affects broader areas of the toes and sometimes the bottom of the feet as well. 

While the majority of coronavirus cases involve mild or no symptoms, some cases can lead to serious complications and even death. As of Wednesday morning, there have been more than 2.58 million confirmed COVID-19 cases around the world. 

And as the number of coronavirus cases have grown, other unexpected symptoms have popped up as well, including a sudden loss of taste or smell. 

RELATED: VERIFY: Yes, a sudden loss of smell or taste might be an indicator of COVID-19

Paller noted that parents shouldn't panic if this is the only sign of the virus their child has. But, she said they should document it in case more symptoms do appear. 

Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University
A teenage patient's foot as pictured on April 3, 2020, at the onset of the skin condition being informally called "COVID toes."

"We don't want to see a mass in people demand testing for COVID-19 right now when resources are sparse. So let's just everybody take a deep breathe with this, look at it, take a picture and we'll see down the road," Dr. Paller stressed to WGN. She also noted that the condition appears to resolve itself spontaneously for most people.  

Credit: Photo courtesy of Dr. Amy Paller, Northwestern University
A teenage patient's foot as pictured on April 6, 2020, three days after the onset of the skin condition being informally called "COVID toes."