What are the skin manifestations of COVID-19 and how can they be used as early markers for the disease?

Bottom Line:

Skin reactions to COVID-19 are divided into 2 groups: (1) the typical non-specific skin rash as seen in other viral infections; and (2) the purple skin eruptions on the tips of toes and fingers, resulting from potential damage to blood vessels in the skin.


Suchonwanit, P. et al. Cutaneous manifestations in COVID-19: Lessons learned from current evidence. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2020). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jaad.2020.04.094

Date Published:

21 April 2020


Skin reactions of different forms have been reported in various demographics as a part of COVID-19 disease. The first type is caused by the reaction to the viral genetic material and presents as non-specific skin rash. This type mimics rashes seen in other viral infections such as dengue virus and chickenpox. The second skin type is seen in children and young adults, and is caused by potential occlusion of blood vessels (thrombotic vasculopathy), or by inflammation of the blood vessels (vasculitis). This second skin type is significant as it has been seen before other COVID-19 symptoms in some cases, or in the absence of any COVID-19 symptoms in others. Therefore, these skin reactions can serve as potential early markers of COVID-19. They may even help to identify carriers and prevent disease transmission.

Summary by: Sheida Naderi-Azad