Cutaneous Manifestations of COVID-19: An Evidence-Based Review

Am J Clin Dermatol. 2020 Oct;21(5):627-639. doi: 10.1007/s40257-020-00558-4.


Background: The coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic has affected 18 million people and killed over 690,000 patients. Although this virus primarily causes respiratory symptoms, an increasing number of cutaneous manifestations associated with this disease have been reported.

Objective: The aim of this review was to collate and categorize the dermatologic findings reported in patients with COVID-19 and identify specific lesions that may facilitate diagnosis and prognostication.

Methods: An evidence-based review of the PubMed database was conducted on 14 May, 2020 using the search terms "Covid-19 skin," "Covid-19 rash," "Covid-19 exanthem," and "Covid-19 chilblains." Peer-reviewed publications containing original COVID-19 patient cases and a discussion of the associated cutaneous findings were included in the analysis.

Results: The literature search identified 115 records, of which 34 publications describing 996 patients with dermatologic conditions were included. Case reports (n = 15), case series (n = 13), and observational prospective studies (n = 4) were the most common publication types. Acral lesions resembling pseudo-chilblains were the most frequent lesion identified (40.4% of cases), appearing in young adults (mean age, 23.2 years) after the onset of extracutaneous COVID-19 symptoms (55/100 patients). Erythematous maculopapular rashes affected 21.3% of patients, most frequently impacting middle-aged adults (mean age, 53.2 years) and occurring at the same time as non-cutaneous symptoms (110/187 patients). Vesicular rashes affected 13.0% of patients, appearing in middle-aged adults (mean age, 48.3 years) after the onset of other symptoms (52/84 patients). Urticarial rashes affected 10.9% of patients, appearing in adults (mean age, 38.3 years) and occurring at the same time as non-cutaneous symptoms (46/78 patients). Vascular rashes resembling livedo or purpura were uncommon (4% of cases), appearing in elderly patients (mean age, 77.5 years) and occurring at the same time as non-cutaneous COVID-19 symptoms (18/29 patients). Erythema multiforme-like eruptions, although infrequent (3.7% of cases), affected mostly children (mean age, 12.2 years).

Conclusions: Vesicular rashes may suggest an initial diagnosis of COVID-19, acral lesions may be most appropriate for epidemiological uses, and vascular rashes may be a useful prognostic marker for severe disease. As a potential correlate to disease severity, prognosis, or infectibility, it is critical that all healthcare professionals be well versed in these increasingly common cutaneous manifestations of COVID-19.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Betacoronavirus
  • COVID-19
  • Coronavirus Infections / complications*
  • Humans
  • Pandemics
  • Pneumonia, Viral / complications*
  • SARS-CoV-2
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / epidemiology
  • Skin Diseases, Infectious / virology*