The Skin Conditions Caused by COVID


As continuing research further expands what we know about COVID-19, growing evidence now shows that the virus can impact nearly every organ of the body, including the skin. Dermatologists from around the globe have started to share information and images regarding the different types of rashes and other skin-related effects that may be linked to the coronavirus. In fact, so many different types of skin related issues are being reported that the American Academy of Dermatology has started an international registry to evaluate and collect this information.

As health experts work to determine what pieces fit in the COVID puzzle and what doesn’t, it’s vital for people to remember the we remain in the early stages of this new disease. It will take time for dermatologists to determine which type of skin disorders are actually related to the virus and which ones have no connection.

Even as reports of skin related issues that may be linked to COVID have ranged from small lumps on the fingers and toes to whole body rashes, it will be interesting to determine which actually develop as a symptom of the virus. Over the long term, researchers and dermatologists may be able to use what they discover about the virus’ relation to our skin as a means of testing patients who don’t manifest the more obvious symptoms – cough, fever, shortness of breath – of the virus. Additionally, the more we understand about the underlying reasons why our skin changes, it may provide us with further clues about how the virus attacks or bodies.

Early COVID Related Rashes

One study published using data collected in Italy described the findings from 88 patients who develop skin disorders. Approximately 20 percent developed some type of rash, 8 patients developed a skin issue at the outset of their infection and 10 patients had skin findings following their hospitalization. The types of rashes ranged from red blotches coving large areas of the body to widespread hives. One patient even developed a blistering rash similar to chickenpox. No connection was identified between the severity of a patient’s illness and the development of any skin condition.

Another study from Thailand, researchers described a patient developing a rash they initially thought to be Dengue, but the patient later tested positive for having the coronavirus.

Recently, patients in New York City ICUs were found to have developed another type of skin conditions that could be the result of the increased blood clotting doctors have seen in severely ill patients. Skin biopsies from the rashes these patients had developed were then linked to tiny blood clots under the skin.

The media has been reporting a lot about so-called “COVID toes.” According to media reports, many dermatologists are these red bumps on the finger and toes of younger people, especially those who developed only mild or asymptomatic cases of the virus. The medial terms for these bumps is “pernio” – and they are typically associated with cold weather. Researchers believe it possible that these finding may be linked with the immune system effect that occur after a patient becomes infected with virus.

How do the Rashes Appear on the Body?

Dermatologists around the world have started to collect data on the type of different skin conditions related to COVID patients. So far, at least six types of skin disorders have been identified that include:

  • Urticaria – a form of hives that’s been regularly reported and confirmed in COVID patients in the U.S., Canada, Finland, France, and Italy.
  • Acral Ischemia – Itchy or painful acral ischemia that form on the toes of patients, this type of disorder is what’s been reported at “COVID toes.”
  • Morbilliform – a diffuse maculopapular eruption on the skin that resembles Dengue.
  • Livedo reticularis – Transient blanching or mottling of the skin, caused as a result of small blood clot located under the skin.
  • Vesicular – A chicken-pox like rash that has been noted in patients in both Italy and the U.S.
  • Petechial – Bleeding under the skin that causes petechial eruptions.

As more research is collected regarding the different types of rashes and skin conditions caused by the virus, dermatologists will continue to do their part in helping the medical community better understand the signs of the COVID that could help unlock the secrets we still don’t know about the disease.