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11/23/2021 Chris Preston
Chilblains are the painful inflammation of tiny blood vessels in your skin that happen in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Also called pernio, chilblains could cause itching, red patches, inflammation, and blistering on your hands and feet.
Chilblains generally clear up within one to three weeks, particularly if the weather gets warmer. You might have recurrences seasonally for years. Treatment involves protecting yourself from the cold and using lotions to relieve the symptoms. Chilblains do not generally result in permanent injury. But the condition could lead to infection, which might cause severe damage if left untreated.
The best approach to chilblains is to stay away from developing them by limiting your exposure to cold, dressing warmly, and covering exposed skin.
Signs and symptoms of chilblains might include:
When should you see a doctor?
Chilblains will generally get better on their own. Look for medical care to check for complications if the pain is unusually severe, if you suspect an infection, or if your symptoms are not improving after one to two weeks. If the symptoms extend into the warm season, consult a doctor to rule out other conditions. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, healing might be impaired. Be careful and seek care.
No one knows for sure what causes chilblains. They may be an abnormal reaction of your body to cold exposure accompanied by rewarming. Rewarming of cold skin could cause small blood vessels under the skin to expand more quickly than nearby larger blood vessels could handle. This leads to a bottleneck effect and the blood leaking into nearby tissues.
Factors that might increase your risk of chilblains include:
Chilblains might cause complications if your skin blisters. If that occurs, you might develop ulcers and infections. Besides being painful, infections are possibly life-threatening if left untreated. Consult a doctor if you suspect infection.
To prevent chilblains:
If your skin is exposed to cold, it is helpful to rewarm it slowly because unexpected rewarming of cold skin might worsen chilblains.
You generally would not need to see your doctor for chilblains. If you do visit your doctor, he or she will be able to diagnose your skin condition by looking at it and speaking with you about any recent cold exposure. The examination may also include checking your circulation. He or she might do further tests, like a skin biopsy, to rule out other causes for your signs and symptoms.
The first line of treatment for chilblains usually involves measures to keep hands and feet warm and dry, like keeping your indoor environment warm and dry, using gloves and socks, and changing damp gloves and socks if necessary.
If your chilblains do not clear up with these home remedies, your doctor might recommend medication, including:
If you or anyone you know is suffering from chilblains, our expert providers at Specialty Care Clinics will take care of your health and help you recover.