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This New COVID-19 Symptom Discolors Your Skin

This symptom is one you can identify through sight. 

While fever, dry cough, and shortness of breath remain the key symptoms of COVID-19, over the last several months doctors have reported patients suffering from many other puzzling symptoms. One of them? COVID toes, an unusual rash of red-purple, tender or itchy bumps. Ever since the bizarre manifestation of the virus was recognized, dermatologists have been on high alert, looking for other skin issues that could be a result of the highly infectious and potentially deadly virus. Now, after months of documenting their findings it is becoming crystal clear that COVID-19 related inflammation of the skin may be more common than previously thought. 

It's Called Vasculopathy

On Wednesday a new case report was published by researchers from New York-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical College in JAMA Dermatology, centering on four patients, aged 40 to 80, with severe coronavirus infections who also presented with skin discoloration in addition to retiform purpura, a type of skin lesions. After performing biopsies, it was revealed that all patients had a type of vasculopathy—in other words, their blood vessels were affected. This led the researchers to believe that the skin discoloration could signify partial occlusion (blockage of blood vessels) with the retiform purpura representing full blockage. In other words, dermatological manifestations of the virus could be a clue that there is abnormal blood clotting occurring in the body. 

While it isn't new news that viral infections can lead to inflammation of the skin, they are definitely an under discussed symptom of coronavirus. Last month researchers from Kings College presented data from the COVID-19 Symptom Study app, with data from around 336,000 people. Of them, 8.8% of those who tested positive for the virus reported a skin rash as a symptom. For 17% of them, it was the first symptom they experienced of the virus, and even more startling? For 21% it was their only symptom. 

It's 'Not Surprising'

"Many viral infections can affect the skin, so it's not surprising that we are seeing these rashes in COVID-19," Dr. Veronique Bataille, consultant dermatologist at St Thomas' Hospital and King's College London, who was involved in the pre-print study, said in a press release accompanying the not-yet peer-reviewed study. "However, it is important that people know that in some cases, a rash may be the first or only symptom of the disease. So if you notice a new rash, you should take it seriously by self-isolating and getting tested as soon as possible."

Other dermatological symptoms that have been reported are rashes inside of the mouth and measles-like rashes. 

As for yourself, avoid catching COVID-19: wear your face mask, get tested if you think you have coronavirus, avoid crowds (and bars, and house parties), practice social distancing, only run essential errands, wash your hands regularly, disinfect frequently touched surfaces, and to get through this pandemic at your healthiest, don't miss these 37 Places You're Most Likely to Catch Coronavirus.

Leah Groth
Leah Groth has decades of experience covering all things health, wellness and fitness related. Read more about Leah
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