COVID Toes or Chilblains?
Posted on 31st January 2021 at 12:23
As winter settles in it is common to see an increase in Chilblains, mainly in the older population, people with circulatory issues or people with conditions such as Raynaud’s.
But is it a coincidence that there has been an increase in younger people suffering with this painful problem since early 2020?
A lot of people, with hindsight, feel that there were people unwell with COVID-19 like symptoms before official statistics began reporting and certainly well before testing was available.
Similarly, my colleagues and I had noticed an increase in Chilblains, presenting in younger people, who had never had them before. These two points may not seem related but as the pandemic escalated a range of related skin conditions were reported including chilblain like lesions in children and young adults. This condition is known as COVID Toes.
A chilblain is an inflammatory condition that affects the peripheral areas of the body e.g., toes. People often think Chilblains are a thing of the past caused by people warming their toes by the fire. But in fact, they are very much still in existence, usually caused by repeated exposure to the cold or associated with connective tissue disorders such as Raynaud’s. They can be painful and itchy, the skin can crack and become discoloured and ultimately ulcerate.
There was a lot of confusion and speculation initially as, many people suffering from COVID Toes were testing negatively for COVID-19 using the standard swab tests. However, the increase in presentation of these Chilblain-like lesions reported world-wide could not be put down as coincidence and further research using the monoclonal antibody tests and / or skin biopsies positively identified viral presence systematically and /or locally. Symptoms can last from a few days to a few weeks and in some documented cases up to 150 days.
Although the vaccination is already being rolled out, we are experiencing cold winter temperatures and many more people will contract COVID-19 before this pandemic is over. So, if you find yourself with swollen, red, painful toes whether you have tested positive for COVID-19 or not the treatment is the same as it would be for Chilblains:
• Wear warm socks (Bamboo socks are perfect)
• Drink warm drinks to keep warm rather than placing your feet in hot water
• Moisturise your feet to prevent cracking
• Take paracetamol to manage any pain
• If you are concerned call your podiatrist
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