As we head into our third pandemic winter, most individuals are all too conversant in the indicators of COVID-19. The illness wears many alternative faces and may present up as chills, cough, problem respiratory or different troublesome jumbles of signs. But typically, this sickness can look positively peculiar.
On uncommon events, SARS-CoV-2 rears its head in physique elements not sometimes touched by respiratory viruses. From head to COVID toe, docs have seen a bevy of weird instances. Patchy tongues, puffy digits, hair loss — such points may be worrisome for sufferers, says Peter Chin-Hong, an infectious ailments doctor on the University of California, San Francisco.
But the outlook doesn’t need to be. That’s as a result of such signs can find yourself going away on their very own, says Chin-Hong, who has handled lots of of individuals with COVID-19.
No one is aware of precisely how typically COVID tongue, COVID toe, COVID eye or different uncommon circumstances happen — and it’s not all the time clear that COVID-19 is the precise offender. Still, the sheer scale of COVID-19 coronavirus infections signifies that SARS-CoV-2 has had many possibilities to indicate its stuff (SN: 9/8/22). The United States is now closing in on 98 million confirmed instances. Such a staggering case depend signifies that “statistically speaking, you’re going to find people with more and more weird things,” Chin-Hong says.
For sufferers with COVID tongue, swelling, lesions and sensitivity can happen.S. Chaughtai, Z. Chaughtai and A. Asif/Journal of Medical Case Reports 2022 (CC BY 4.0)
Doctors depend on medical case studies for leads on potential therapies and hints about how lengthy signs could final. Even simply understanding that another person has had splotchy mouth sores or tender toes may be useful, Chin-Hong says. That lets him inform his sufferers, “You’re not the only one,” he says. “That means a lot to a lot of people.”
Internal medication physician Saira Chaughtai printed one such examine in October within the Journal of Medical Case Reports after one among her major care sufferers got here in with a symptom Chaughtai had by no means seen. Ten days after testing optimistic for COVID-19, the affected person’s tongue started to swell, finally erupting in white-ringed lesions.
Certain spots appeared “denuded,” says Chaughtai, of Hackensack Meridian Health in Neptune, N.J. It was as if among the tongue’s floor bumps had been sandpapered away. The affected person wasn’t somebody docs would sometimes take into account weak, both. She was 30 years previous, match and wholesome.
“I was like, ‘Oh my god, COVID can do anything,’” Chaughtai remembers pondering.
From astronomy to zoology
Subscribe to Science News to fulfill your omnivorous urge for food for common information.
Oral sores can look completely different amongst sufferers. Chin-Hong has seen individuals with tongues coated white, as in the event that they’d chewed a mouthful of tortilla chips. For Chaughtai’s affected person, COVID tongue felt delicate and irritated, with flare-ups that burned. Chaughtai wasn’t positive how you can deal with it.
She searched the scientific literature and prescribed an assortment of mouthwashes, which helped. But six months in, the affected person’s tongue hadn’t absolutely healed. So Chaughtai acquired artistic. She teamed up with a sports activities medication physician, who beamed low-level laser mild on the affected person’s tongue. He had beforehand used this photobiomodulation remedy to deal with muscle accidents.
Laser mild remedy makes blood vessels dilate, enhancing blood move to handled areas, which might promote therapeutic, Chaughtai says. It appeared to work for her affected person. The tongue lesions started to heal and flare-ups subsided. The lady nonetheless often feels some tongue sensitivity when harassed, however by no means as unhealthy as her preliminary outbreak.
The results of COVID toe
About 1,300 kilometers west, a podiatrist in Crown Point, Ind., additionally dilated a affected person’s blood vessels to deal with a curious COVID-19 coronavirus situation: COVID toe. After an infection with SARS-CoV-2, sufferers’ fingers and toes can plump up, typically painfully, and switch pink or reddish purple.
“We were seeing cases of these lesions that look like chilblains, which is something you get when you’re exposed to cold weather,” says Michael Nirenberg of Friendly Foot Care. But his sufferers hadn’t been within the chilly — they’d been uncovered to the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Nirenberg has seen as many as 40 individuals with the symptom, which he’s discovered tends to clear up in a month or two. But one among his sufferers, a 59-year-old man, simply couldn’t kick COVID toe. It finally lingered for practically 670 days — the longest documented case Nirenberg has seen. “The term we used was long COVID toe,” he says. Nirenberg and colleagues reported the case this spring within the Journal of Cutaneous Pathology.
See all our protection of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic
Nirenberg prescribed each day utility of a nitroglycerin ointment to spice up blood move to the toes. That could have helped, Nirenberg says, “but I don’t know if time also did the trick.” After 22 months, the situation could have lastly resolved by itself.
The variety of COVID toes Nirenberg encounters as of late has gone down, however he’s nonetheless seeing individuals are available with the situation. And although Chaughtai has not handled one other case of COVID tongue, a person just lately e-mailed her saying that he had suffered from the same affliction for 2 years.
UCSF’s Chin-Hong says he thinks it’s vital for individuals to know that COVID-19 may cause such quite a lot of signs (SN: 11/11/22). “We can’t really predict who’s going to get what,” he says. But in his expertise, unusual signs have tended to crop up extra typically in individuals who haven’t been vaccinated.
Such signs is probably not as critical as COVID-affected hearts or lungs, however they’ll definitely look scary, Chin-Hong says. “If this is a reason why some people might get vaccinated,” he says, “I think that would be great.”