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A bizarre new coronavirus symptom has been discovered

Published Apr 16th, 2020 1:53PM EDT
coronavirus symptoms
Image: Deliris/Shutterstock

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  • Doctors in Europe have found small lesions on the feet of coronavirus patients, possibly indicating a new symptom.
  • The lesions can be present even in coronavirus patients without any other symptoms.
  • The lesions heal on their own, and their cause is unknown, but this discovery could help doctors detect new COVID-19 cases.
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Since the very earliest days of the novel coronavirus pandemic doctors have been searching for a way to differentiate a case of COVID-19 from other, similar respiratory illnesses. Coronavirus patients cough, have fevers, and experience fatigue, but the same is true for those with the seasonal flu, common cold, and even severe allergies. Finding unique symptoms has proven difficult.

Testing is obviously the best way to determine who does or doesn’t have a coronavirus infection, but health experts in Spain think they may have stumbled upon another early warning sign, and it’s one that isn’t typical of other respiratory ailments. The researchers have found that some COVID-19 patients have small lesions on their feet that are easily visible.

The Spanish General Council of Official Podiatrist Colleges issued a statement explaining how the strange symptom presents. “They are purple lesions (very similar to those of chickenpox, measles or chilblains) which usually appear on the toes and normally heal without leaving a mark,” the translated statement reads.

What’s perhaps most interesting about this new discovery is that the lesions can appear in COVID-19 patients that don’t have any other symptoms. Detecting the spread of coronavirus in individuals who don’t have the typical cough/fever/fatigue combo has been a major challenge, and since the virus can jump from person-to-person even without those symptoms being present, lesions on the feet could provide doctors with a new way to spot positive cases.

coronavirus feetImage source: CGCOP

Even better, the lesions, which are easily visible and quick to check for, disappear and fully heal with no additional action needed. It’s almost like an alarm bell of new coronavirus infections, a red flag on the feet, so to speak. The lesions aren’t thought to be harmful, but if doctors can use them to detect coronavirus cases before severe symptoms occur, that’s a big plus.

“The Council wants to convey a message of reassurance to parents and possible victims, given the benign nature of the lesions, and to remember that they should monitor the appearance of the other clinical symptoms characteristic of COVID-19, such as cough, fever, respiratory distress, etc.,” the council explains.

The experts are somewhat vague about how widespread this symptom is among coronavirus patients but note that it has been confirmed in “numerous” COVID-19 patients across Europe. Theories on why these lesions appear in the first place are scant, and the researchers are quick to point out that they’ll need additional confirmation and more cases to confirm the link between this odd symptom and COVID-19.