Why rashes in Covid-19 patients should not be ignored

  • Numerous Covid-19 patients have reported skin issues, including lesions, discolourations and rashes
  • Investigating four patients with severe Covid-19, they found that skin issues could signify blood clots
  • These skin issues involve blood clots in small blood vessels – and may be underlying in other organs as well

As researchers revealed some of the strange symptoms caused by Covid-19, it was discovered that many patients also tend to develop dermatological issues such as skin rashes or “Covid-toes”.

While these side-effects may seem random for a virus that is supposed to target the respiratory system and other organs, skin lesions and rashes may be telltale signs of Covid-19-related blood clots, according to new research published in JAMA Dermatology.

Discoloured, uneven skin

The research team from New-York Presbyterian/Weill Cornell University investigated four cases of New York patients with severe Covid-19. These intubated patients also had skin complications.

The patients showed signs of two conditions known as acral fixed livedo racemose, a condition known to cause skin discolouration and broken skin, and retiform purpura, which involves skin lesions caused by red blood cells leaking into the skin.

The researchers performed punch biopsies (taking skin samples) on the patients, which revealed that all four patients presented with clotting in their skin, as well as pulmonary embolism (blockage in one of the pulmonary arteries in the lungs).

Even though the researchers were not sure how far into the illness the rashes started to manifest on the skin, they are sure that these were signs of abnormal blood clots, which can lead to heart attacks, strokes or pulmonary embolisms. What was more worrying, was the fact that all four patients received clot-preventing treatment during their hospital stay.

The skin, a 'misunderstood organ'

We commonly hear that the skin is the body’s biggest organ, but we often neglect to think of the skin revealing something more serious brewing below.

The researchers emphasise the importance of skin manifestations in Covid-19 patients, as this may be signs of blood clotting in small blood vessels – while remaining invisible in other organs.

Even though the research was conducted in only four patients, reports of skin issues in Covid-19 patients are quite common, with people on a Facebook group for coronavirus patients and survivors sharing reports of chilblain-like lesions on their toes; rashes similar to chickenpox; purple or red splotches; blisters, etc.

The researchers stated that medical practitioners should keep a lookout for skin conditions in their patients, as these may signal potential blood clots, which could be established by means of a skin biopsy.

READ | More symptoms of coronavirus: 'Covid toes' and skin rashes

READ | Scientists find source of Covid-19 clots

READ | Masks and your skin: What you should know

Image credit: iStock

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For 14 free days, you can have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today. Thereafter you will be billed R75 per month. You can cancel anytime and if you cancel within 14 days you won't be billed. 
Subscribe to News24
Voting Booth
Have you entered our Health of the Nation survey?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
27% - 9950 votes
73% - 26296 votes