While the most common signs of coronavirus are a dry cough, fever, and shortness of breath, a new study has found a new, lingering symptom that can last five months after infection.
It is dubbed “COVID toes” and it is when the body part turns purple from the disease.
The skin condition typically develops within a week of getting infected with coronavirus and can last up until a fortnight, however, scientists have discovered that in some people, it can last for up to six months after patients have fought the virus off.
Researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) recently discovered the phenomenon in collaboration with the International League of Dermatological Societies and the American Academy of Dermatology.
Together, they established an international registry for COVID-19 skin manifestations in April 2020, which examined 505 people with coronavirus.
The figures were submitted by doctors treating patients with skin issues in 39 countries around the world.
Of those patients, 318 or 63 per cent, reported symptoms consistent with “COVID toes” — a pernio-like inflammation on their feet.
Pernio occurs when the skin is exposed to very cold temperatures, causing it to burn and blister.
While most dermatological symptoms lasted an average of 12 days, researchers said two patients reported longer durations — one had “Covid toes” for over 130 days and another for more than 150 days.
“When we started looking at symptom duration, some of these patients are having really incredibly long-lasting symptoms,” Dr Esther Freeman, the principal investigator of the registry and the director of Global Health Dermatology at MGH said.
“In particular, we saw that with chilblains, also known as Covid toes, where they’ve been having skin symptoms for more than 60 days.”
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Despite what its name suggests, “Covid toes” can also be redness or swelling of the hands.
“In most cases, it is self-resolved and it goes away. It is relatively mild,” Dr Freeman explained, as reported by CBS.
However, she said some patients have had red or purple or swollen toes for many months.
“They’ve had toe swelling and toe discolouration and toe pain for many months,” Dr Freeman said.
“They’ve had this really kind of persistent inflammation.”
She said as there is currently no known treatment to address “Covid toes”, there is not much doctors can do for them.
Dr Freeman emphasised that “Covid toes” was only in a small number of patients and goes away “relatively quickly, and goes away on their own”.
“I don’t want people to panic. I think it’s important to be reassured that this is generally associated with pretty mild disease … It’s just important to recognise that there is a subgroup of patients that seemed to have these really long-lasting persistent symptoms and that’s a group we need to further understand.”
The analysis, which will be discussed at the 29th European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology Congress this week, also discovered “long Covid” in other organ systems, which Dr Freeman said it raises questions about what sort of inflammation is going on.
“Is there inflammation elsewhere in the body?” Dr Freeman said. “We don’t really know the answer yet.
“The skin can be viewed as a window into the rest of the body because it is inflammation which you can see — and can be indicative of inflammation elsewhere.
“I think what we’re reporting is probably just the tip of the iceberg – it’s probably happening a lot more than we’re reporting but I think by reporting it more people will recognise it.”