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Yes, COVID toes are a real condition

Aaron Rodgers claimed to have an uncommon condition among COVID-19 patients, called "COVID toe," which is a discoloration and swelling in the toes.
Credit: maneka - stock.adobe.com

Following Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ recovery from COVID-19, he said on a sports show that the only lingering effects of COVID-19 he is suffering from is “COVID toe.”

Since then, people nationwide have gone to search engines to look up what “COVID toe” is.


Are COVID toes a real condition?



This is true.

COVID toes are a real condition in which the toes or fingers of a person with COVID-19 become discolored and swollen. Researchers are still studying the exact cause of the condition.


COVID toes are a discoloration in the toes of people with COVID-19 that occurs due to small clogs in the person’s blood vessels, according to Cleveland Clinic. COVID toes first gained attention as a possible symptom of COVID-19 back in the spring of 2020.

The American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says the discolored toes are also typically swollen. They are often a bright red color that gradually turns purple, but the color can also begin purplish. Blisters, itch, pain and a small amount of pus under the skin are also possible on top of the swelling and discoloration, the AAD says. These symptoms can begin on one or several toes or fingers.

Aaron Rodgers hasn’t said much about his exact ailment, but in an interview he suggested the injury was related to the bone. Afterwards, he clarified in a press conference he has a fractured toe. COVID toes do not affect the bones in people’s toes or leave them with a fracture of any kind. 

The AAD says children, teenagers and young adults are most likely to develop COVID toes, although it can happen to anyone of any age. Some patients develop other symptoms of COVID-19, while other patients develop no other symptoms.

COVID toes do not happen in every COVID-19 patient, and are far less common than symptoms like coughing, fever and loss of taste or smell.

The exact cause of COVID toes isn’t entirely clear to health experts as of yet. As of Nov. 24, 2021, the CDC does not list the discoloration or swelling of toes as a symptom of COVID-19. The WHO, on the other hand, lists “discolouration of fingers or toes” as a “less common symptom” of COVID-19.

A Kaiser Permanente study published June 2021 found most patients in its study group thought to have COVID toes tested negative for COVID-19 and instead suffered from unrelated toe inflammation that is often caused by exposure to cold temperatures. The authors suggested “COVID toes” were therefore caused by behavioral changes during the pandemic, not COVID-19 itself.

But researchers at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research published a study in October 2021 that separated patients with unrelated toe inflammation from patients with toe inflammation who tested positive for COVID-19, and found COVID toes could be the direct result of the body’s immune response to COVID-19.

More from VERIFY: Yes, a potentially deadly parasite that enters people through bare feet is in the US

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