Chilblains are a painful inflammatory reaction of the small vessels in the body that occur in response to repetitive exposure to cold. They commonly result in itchy swellings and/or blisters on the skin of the fingers and toes.
Usually, a chilblains episode develops the few hours following exposure to cold. They present as itchy red swellings, and usually subside over the following next 7-14 days, or sometimes longer. In severe cases, blistering, pustules, scabs and ulceration can occur.
Chilblains typically occur on the fingers and toes, and less commonly on the ears and nose. They typically cause a burning and/or itching sensation to the affected areas The skin may break and sores or blisters can develop.
Chilblains most commonly occur in those with circulatory conditions or those with Raynaud’s disease. Many people have Raynaud’s disease without realising, those with Raynaud’s disease tend to have cold hands and fee, which take longer than most to warm back up on exposure to cold.
There are certain risk factors that may increase the risk of developing chilblains, these include:
Other factors contributing to this conditions include:
It is very important that you don’t scratch the area affected as it may get infected. You should seek medical advice if chilblains are failing to heal, you are having recurring chilblains and/or it is affecting your quality of life.
Usually chilblains get better on their own, seek medical care to check for complications if the pain is unusually severe,you suspect an infection, or your symptoms are not improving after one to two weeks.
Sometimes chilblains respond poorly to treatment and then following may be useful:
Podiatry treatment for chilblains is mainly in the form of prevention management, through keeping the areas warm and dry, and trying to increase circulation to the areas affected.
Those with chilblains should keep their hands and feet warm to reduce the risks of new episodes. People who experience chilblains should try and avoid:
Smoking as nicotine constrict the blood vessels
Minimise use of substances that constrict blood vessels including caffeine, decongestants and diet acids
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