Coping with COVID-19: ‘Long-hauler’ COVID-19 Patients Experience Prolonged Skin Symptoms

October 29, 2020

The study showed an average duration of 12 days for all dermatological symptoms, with some lasting as long as >150 days.

Some COVID-19 patients experience long-lasting skin symptoms that vary according to type of COVID-19 skin rash, according to a late-breaking abstract presented at the 29th EADV Congress, EADV Virtual.

The analysis of the largest registry of COVID-19 patients with dermatological symptoms found that a subset of patients, called ‘long-haulers’ or ‘long COVID’, experience prolonged symptoms (lasting >60 days) on their skin. 

Data from 990 cases from 39 countries input into the registry, a collaboration between the International League of Dermatological Societies and the American Academy of Dermatology, show an average duration of 12 days for all dermatological symptoms, with some lasting as long as >150 days.

Patients presented with a broad spectrum of dermatologic manifestations lasting for different lengths of time, including urticaria, lasting for median 5 days, and pernio/chilblains (‘‘COVID toes’’), lasting 15 days but sometimes as long as 130-150 days, and papulosquamous eruptions, persisting for 20 days.1

The identification of this unique subset of “COVID toes” patients with symptoms lasting long after the acute phase of COVID-19 may have implications for understanding the prolonged inflammatory response in some patients after infection.

Skin symptoms vary by COVID-19 severity. Some symptoms, such as retiform purpura, are associated with severe COVID-19, since all of these patients were hospitalized, while COVID toes travel with relatively mild disease, with only 16 percent hospitalised. Furthermore, although COVID toes often appear 1-4 weeks after initial infection, 15 percent were found to still be PCR positive for COVID-19.

“Our registry identified a previously unreported subset of patients with longstanding skin symptoms from COVID-19,” says Dr Esther Freeman, Principal Investigator of the International COVID-19 Dermatology Registry and Director, Global Health Dermatology, Massachusetts General Hospital, in a news release. “We highlight patients with pernio/chilblains, also known as COVID toes, who have had symptoms for as long as 150 days. This data adds to our knowledge about how COVID-19 can affect multiple different organ systems, even after patients have recovered from their acute infection. The skin can provide a visual window into inflammation that may be going on elsewhere in the body.”

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