What are the more unusual symptoms of COVID-19 and what should you be watching out for? Other symptoms that have also become prevalent in patients are the loss of smell or taste, fatigue and a runny nose, as well as diarrhoea. The reports of these non-respiratory effects started to build as doctors began treating more patients; much of the current scientific understanding of them is still in the early stages and not confirmed by enough research. But recognising they exist could help healthcare professionals spot them sooner and possibly minimise their effects.
Skin rashes and COVID-19 toes: It is not unusual to see skin rashes in someone with a viral infection, what is unclear about COVID-19 is whether the rashes associated with infection are specific to the virus, meaning there is actual virus in the skin, or if they are a manifestation of the immune system reacting to the virus that is elsewhere in the body. COVID-19 toes can be found on the side or sole of the foot and in some cases has been seen on hands and fingers. Doctors have reported a range of skin-related conditions that might be connected to COVID-19, including head-to-toe red rashes, hive-like eruptions, blisters and rashes spreading across larger patches of skin.
Pink eye or conjunctivitis: The Royal College of Ophthalmologists and College of Optometrists has said that in any upper respiratory tract infection, there is a possibility that it could result in viral conjunctivitis. They highlighted that this would be a secondary complication in viruses such as the coronavirus.
Gastrointestinal symptoms: It has now become clear that not all of those infected with COVID-19 display the classic respiratory symptoms that doctors focused on early in the pandemic; many people only experience diarrhoea, nausea and vomiting. Acknowledging that COVID-19 can affect the gut as well as the respiratory system is critical, especially when it comes to controlling the spread of infection.
Renal symptoms: The gut is not the only open target for the virus. Some studies have reported finding SARS-CoV-2 virus in the urine of infected people, although extensive studies of kidney tissues so far are not conclusive. But among hospitalised patients, for example, doctors are finding microscopic amounts of blood, as well as hints of proteins, in the urine, both of which are signs of cellular injury to the kidneys even if the patients do not complain of any symptoms.
Hepatic symptoms: Further, over half of the COVID-19 patients seem to have elevated or lower-than-normal levels of liver enzymes, which could signal that the virus has invaded the organ. Combined, those two facts make it reasonable to question whether the virus can infect and injure the liver. Fortunately, current data suggest that COVID-19 does not lead to dramatic liver failure.
Blood clots and stroke: One of the risks of COVID-19 cases has to do with blood clots, including those that can lead to stroke. However, some experts believe SARS-CoV-2 could be uniquely damaging the circulatory system. As with kidney, lungs, liver and intestinal cells, blood vessel cells also carry the Angiotensin-converting enzyme 2 (ACE2) receptors, which means the virus could be directly infecting the cells that line the vessels and, therefore, contributing to clot formations of small blood clots in different organs.
Altered smell and taste: Another group of intriguing reports from people affected by COVID-19 has to do with their loss of smell and taste. Most of us are familiar with the way congestion from a cold or allergies can impact these senses.The damage may be caused by the inflammatory reaction that causes tissues to swell and compress and the nerves, or because of more direct viral infection.
Doctors and other healthcare professionals need to keep their eyes and minds open to these emerging new symptoms of COVID-19 so that the patients can be treated carefully.
The writer is a gerontologist and a public health specialist.