Chilblains: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Also known as pernio or perniosis, a chilblain is an abnormal skin reaction to cold or damp weather in humid climates.

What Do Chilblains Look Like?

It is painful swelling that also has red, burning and itching feelings that are intensified when coming in from the cold. The skin may also break down over the swelling which may become infected if an antibiotic isn't used to treat it. The toes, fingers, nose and ears are most common areas for appearance.

Causes of Chilblains

The biggest contributor of chilblains is exposure to cold, damp, nonfreezing weather. The blood vessels constrict when they become cold and when they are warmed too quickly the vessels can't react quickly enough so that blood leaks into the skin which causes the chilblains to form. Although damp cold weather is related to the condition it isn't the reason for the condition. The warming of the skin too quickly is what causes chilblains rather than the cold.

Any place where blood circulation is restricted is also at risk of developing chilblains including pressure points on the feet such as bunions and calluses or where the toes are under pressure from tight shoes. Another contributing factor to chilblains can also be damp living conditions.

Who Is At Risk?

Those at greatest risk is mainly young adult women. It is unknown why this is the case, but it is thought to be hormonal changes that place these women at greater risk. Those who don't wear socks outside during winter are also clearly at risk. Chilblains can also be developed by anyone who isn't properly clothed for the weather conditions.

Those with poor circulation and the elderly are at risk. Since smoking slows the blood circulation, smokers are at risk as well as diabetics. Some people can have chilblains occur every year for the rest of their lives while others may only get them for a few years and then never experience them again. It is unknown why this occurs.

Prevention of Chilblains

It is important not to let your skin get cold, you should wear thick wool socks that keep air around your feet so they are kept naturally warm. To keep your feet dry you should wear rubber boots. To keep the moist cold air away from your face you should wrap a wool or tight knitted scarf around your face.

Avoid using direct heat to warm your feet if they do get cold such as a fireplace, electric heating blanket, a hot bath or shower. These methods have been know to lead to chilblains. You should also avoid smoking since this affects the circulation of small blood vessels that feed into your skin. Before going outside exercise vigorously. Before going out soak your hands in warm water to warm them thoroughly and then dry them completely before leaving the house.

Treatment for Chilblains

Treatment typically don't work well for chilblains. The best you can do is visit your doctor and keep the infected area warm to help increase the blood flow to the infected area. It is also a good idea to stop smoking if you smoke.

A doctor can prescribe a topical steroid cream to stop the itching and swelling. Always remember to warm slowly with blankets and warm clothing rather than applying direct heat. Within seven to fourteen days symptoms may clear on their own.

Leave a comment

Latest Articles

Any Query?