Did you know that doctors are starting to see skin symptoms associated with Covid-19? What we are learning is that infection with the novel corona virus can produce skin symptoms both in patients who are otherwise asymptomatic as well as in those who have more severe respiratory and flu-like symptoms.
The Center for Disease Control estimates that up to 25% of people infected with the novel corona virus (Covid-19) will show no overt symptoms. Other experts say the percentage of asymptomatic Covid infections may be as high as 50%. This is one reason why understanding skin changes that sometimes occur with Covid-19 infection is important: the skin change may be the only clue that you have been exposed. Such a clue may also provide an early warning before other more serious symptoms develop.
Here are the skin changes to look for:
“Covid Toes,” or Pernio
Doctors started to notice a Covid-related skin symptom affecting fingers and toes, especially in children, even if they showed no other symptoms. Nicknaming it “Covid-toes,” they saw red and purplish bumps known as “pernio” that can also develop into blisters, pustules and ulcers. Normally these bumps are caused by an exposure to cold and are treated with the gentle application of heat.
Pernio can also happen in those with autoimmune conditions, such as lupus and celiac disease. This could provide some understanding on why pernio is also triggered by Covid-19 infection. How? As time goes on, doctors are seeing a concerning development in children with Covid-19. A small number of children are now suffering a severe syndrome of systemwide inflammation caused by an overactive immune response to the virus. That’s why ”Covid-toes” may be an early signal to get tested for the virus fast, so that you can monitor your child’s condition under the guidance of a physician.
In Italy, dermatologists found that in a group of 88 Covid patients, 20% had developed skin rashes either right at the onset of the disease or after hospitalization. The types of rashes varied from a patchy red rash, to hives, to blisters that looked like chickenpox. The most common site for skin rashes in Covid patients was the trunk.
It is yet unclear what causes the variety of rashes in Covid cases, or whether they are the result of either a weakened or overactive immune response.
However, if you are having what you think are mild cold symptoms, but you also have an unexplained rash, it might be a sign that your symptoms are Covid-related. Be sure to discuss a test with your doctor.
Covid’s Effect on Blood Vessels
In addition to surface rashes and pernio, Covid can produce skin lesions due to its inflammatory effect on subcutaneous blood vessels. There is also a problem with blood clotting in Covid patients (clotting that can be fatal if the clots go the lungs, heart or brain). Both inflammation and clotting can cause damage to the vasculature that show up on the skin’s surface. Vascular damage can show up as bruising, broken blood vessels, or ulcerative lesions and livedoid eruptions which can manifest as oozing open sores.
What Does Covid Mean for Dermatology Patients?
If you already suffer from a chronic skin condition like psoriasis, TSW, eczema, rosacea or acne, it’s helpful to know the signs of Covid skin symptoms, as you might be tempted to overlook a Covid related lesion or rash as just another flare-up. If you have a flare-up, examine your skin closely for any sign that this may be different than what is normal for you. A new rash, or a new color to an existing patch of redness can be significant, especially if you are experiencing a fever or cold and flu-like symptoms.
If you are experiencing changes in your skin condition during these stressful times, at Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions, we offer videoconference appointments to answer questions, offer support, and provide whole health solutions through effective herbal medicine prescriptions.
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About the Author
Dr. Olivia Hsu Friedman, LAc, DACM, Cert. TCM Dermatology is the owner of Amethyst Holistic Skin Solutions and treats patients via video conferencing using only herbal medicine. Olivia serves on the Advisory Board of LearnSkin, is the Chair of the American Society of Acupuncturists Board of Directors, and is a faculty member of the Chicago Integrative Eczema Support Group sponsored by The National Eczema Association.