‘COVID toe,’ a painful condition that looks like frostbite, could be a side effect of the body’s desperation to beat the virus. Studies suggest that the problem could be caused by an overly aggressive immune response from the body.
Cases of COVID toe started appearing at the beginning of the pandemic. In April 2020, the American Academy of Dermatology received 100 reports of people with the same kinds of lesions on their hands as well as their feet.
Studying the cause
Based on blood and skin biopsy tests, the researchers found abnormal levels of a molecule called interferon 1. The molecule acts as the first line of defense by activating the immune system to fight off infections and viruses. However, scientists also concluded that the condition involved the body generating an immune response with high levels of certain autoantibodies. These antibodies mistakenly target and react with a person’s cells and tissues as well as the invading virus.
Both autoimmune response and interferon recruitment play a key role in the development of the frostbite-like condition.
Signs And Symptoms
The symptoms resemble the condition known as frostbite. With purple hue, swollen toes, and red, itchy plaques on the extremities, the symptom results in chilblain-like inflammation and redness on the hands and feet. Meanwhile, the condition sometimes lasts for months at a time. It typically develops within a week to four weeks of infection and can result in toes and fingers changing color or becoming swollen.
“The epidemiology and clinical features of chilblain-like lesions have been extensively studied and published. However, the pathophysiology of the disease is still not known. Our study provides new insights,” scientists conclude.
They added, “The confirmation of the cause will help to develop new treatments to manage it more effectively.”
“We observed an ‘epidemic’ of acute and self-healing vasculitic lesions of the hands and feet in asymptomatic children and adolescents. These lesions constituted a novelty that led us to establish a link with the other much more severe novelty, i.e. Covid-19, which also occurred almost simultaneously,” scientists wrote.
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