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Person With COVID Toes At The Center For Surgical Dermatology

What are “COVID Toes” and How Can this Surprising COVID-19 Symptom Impact Your Skin?

When thinking about COVID-19 and its symptoms, what often comes to mind is shortness of breath, fatigue, fever or chills, coughing, and the loss of taste and smell… but the skin can also show changes due to COVID-19. 

These skin changes range from discrete skin lesions to widespread rashes. One specific and somewhat surprising symptom of COVID-19 that has been seen in dermatology offices is COVID toes.

While it’s important to know that this coronavirus symptom is quite rare to experience, COVID toes and skin rashes have been known to occur in those affected by COVID-19. Learn more about this surprising symptom and how COVID-19 can affect the health of your skin below. 


What are COVID toes? 

COVID toes refers to a skin condition that appears on the toes and fingers, or sometimes both, of people who have or are recovering from COVID-19. This condition causes swelling of one or several toes or fingers and the skin of the toes or fingers may turn a pink, red, or purplish color. Individuals who experience COVID toes may describe pain, itching, or burning of the affected digits.

Anyone who has COVID-19 can experience COVID toes. However, researchers have found that this condition usually occurs in children, teens, and young adults. 


What are the symptoms of COVID toes? 

The most common symptoms associated with COVID toes include: 

  • Pink, red, or purple discoloration of the toes (and sometimes the fingers). 
  • Painful blisters or sores. 
  • Toes may itch, ache, or throb. 
  • Small, painful bumps. 
  • Swelling.
  • May appear and feel similar to chilblains (when the feet are warmed up too quickly after being cold). 

Furthermore, since this condition is relatively new, researchers are not sure how long COVID toes last. According to this article, the median amount of time people experienced COVID toes symptoms was 15 days. However, this condition has been shown to last anywhere from 10 days to several months. 


Why do COVID toes occur? 

Researchers aren’t quite sure why COVID toes are a symptom of COVID-19 or exactly what causes this particular condition. However, they speculate it’s due to a few reasons: 

  1. COVID toes are simply a sign of the immune system’s response to the viral infection (i.e. an inflammatory response).
  2. The coronavirus impacts the overall health of the lungs and circulatory system, which means the smaller blood vessels located in the toes and fingers could be affected. 
  3. As this condition is found more often in children and young adults, who often have stronger immune systems, researchers suggest it could be due to a more aggressive immune response to the virus. 


How are COVID toes treated? 

Fortunately, treatment for COVID toes is pretty straightforward — as the body recovers from COVID-19, the condition typically resolves on its own. 

However, if COVID toes persist, our board-certified dermatologists recommend visiting a professional for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. For treatment, your physician may recommend a topical prescription. 


Visit a Board-Certified Dermatologist for COVID Toes Diagnosis & Treatment

If you have recently had COVID or been exposed to someone who tested positive, and the skin of your toes or fingers is changing in any way, a dermatology evaluation might be recommended. While COVID toes are typically nothing to worry about, our board-certified dermatologists can help you restore the health of your skin. 


The Center for Surgical Dermatology is passionate about skin health, and we’re ready to help treat your COVID toes. We have been operating in Central Ohio since 2007 and have offices in Westerville, Gahanna, Columbus, Lancaster, Granville, and Pickerington, OH. Please get in touch today to learn more about our services. You can call (614) 847-4100 to schedule your first appointment. 

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