COVID toes, pink eye and sudden confusion: Bizarre signs that you might have coronavirus

COVID toes, pink eye and sudden confusion: Bizarre signs that you might have coronavirus
FILE PHOTO: Test tube with Corona virus name label is seen in this illustration taken on January 29, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/File Photo

In Summary

10 typical symptoms of COVID-19
  • An inability to take a deep breath
  • A rising temperature
  • A debilitating cough
  • Chills and body aches
  • Overwhelming exhaustion
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Sore throat
  • Headache
  • Nasal congestion

If there was ever a disease that has figured out a way to tackle the body in weird and widespread ways, Covid-19 is it. It appears to be able to invade nearly every major organ.

It clots blood, often in dangerous ways. It attacks our sense of smell, our eyes, even our skin.

Because new, rarer symptoms continue to pop up as more and more of us experience Covid-19, this is not an exhaustive list. Still, here are a few of the bizarre symptoms we might experience.

A new loss of taste or smell

The CDC recently added this unusual symptom to its list of top signs that you might have Covid-19. It can occur without any prior warning, not even a stuffy nose.

“What’s called anosmia, which basically means loss of smell, seems to be a symptom that a number of patients developed,” CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta told CNN anchor Alisyn Camerota on “New Day.”

It appears to be more prevalent in mild or moderate cases of Covid-19, and tends to appear at the beginning of the illness. It may be even be one of the first signs that you are sick.

“Anosmia, in particular, has been seen in patients ultimately testing positive for the coronavirus with no other symptoms,” according to the American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery.

Any respiratory virus, such as cold or flu, will temporarily impact smell and taste, and in rare cases, the loss can be permanent. So the loss of those senses are not a definitive diagnosis of Covid-19.

Still, “it’s clearly something to look out for — sometimes these early symptoms aren’t the classic ones,” Gupta said.

Is there anything you can do at home to test to see if you’re suffering a loss of smell?

The answer is yes, by using the “jellybean test” to tell if odors flow from the back of your mouth up through your nasopharynx and into your nasal cavity. If you can pick out distinct flavors such as orange and lemon, your sense of smell is functioning fine.

Covid toes and blood clots

At first glance, the swollen red or purple toes look like a case of frostbite. But it’s just another example of the strange ways that Covid-19 — primarily a respiratory disease — affects the body.

What’s really going on? The virus is creating tiny blood clots in the smallest blood vessels in the feet.

And while colorful toes may not be a cause for alarm, experts say, the discovery that Covid-19 is clotting blood throughout the body is a dangerous development.

Doctors are finding blood clots of all sizes throughout the body, even in people who are young and healthy.

Those clots are often lodging in the limbs of the body, where they can break away and clog the lungs, heart, kidneys and liver.

There the clots cause inflammation, immune complications and even deadly or debilitating strokes and pulmonary embolisms, the medical name for blood clots in the lungs.

“It seems like Covid, the virus, is creating a local inflammatory response that’s leading to some of these thrombotic events,” said Dr. Sean Wengerter, division chief of vascular surgery at Westchester Medical Center Health’s Good Samaritan Hospital, in a prior CNN interview.

“This is happening because of the direct action of the virus on the arteries themselves.”

Signs of a potential clot in a limb include unusual tenderness or pain, a red or blue tinge to the area, warmth or itchiness or cramping in the lower calf or leg.

The clot may have moved to lungs or heart if you have chest pain, dizziness, a bad cough or trouble breathing.

Pink eye

Early research from China, South Korea and other parts of the world found about 1% to 3% of people with Covid-19 also had conjunctivitis, commonly known as pink eye.

Conjunctivitis, a highly contagious condition when caused by a virus, is an inflammation of the thin, transparent layer of tissue, called conjunctiva, that covers the white part of the eye and the inside of the eyelid.

But SARS-CoV-2 is just one of many viruses that can cause conjunctivitis, so it came as no real surprise to scientists that this newly discovered virus would do the same.

Still, a pink or red eye could be one more sign that you should call your doctor if you also have other telltale symptoms of Covid-19, such as fever, cough or shortness of breath.

Sudden confusion, even delirium

The World Health Organization lists altered consciousness or confusion as a possible early symptom of Covid-19, in some cases presenting even before fever and cough.

Delirium and hallucinations can appear, which can have long-term impact — slowing recovery and increasing the risk for dementia, depression or post-traumatic stress.

And it’s not just the mentally weaker elderly who are suffering. Doctors see many younger patients with such symptoms as well.

Studies show some 60% to 75% of Covid-19 patients in intensive care are experiencing various central nervous system breakdowns: Some hallucinate they are on fire or freezing; others see visions they keep to themselves, becoming withdrawn; and still others are confused and irritable.

Because signs of encephalopathy — any damage or disease that affects the brain — can lead to serious illness, the CDC says that any sudden confusion or an inability to wake up and be alert is a serious symptom.

If you or a loved one has those symptoms, especially with other critical signs like bluish lips, trouble breathing or chest pain, seek help immediately by calling 719.

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