Cold Feet this Winter? It might be Chilblains
> What are chilblains?
Chilblains (also known as erythema pernio or perniosis) are small, red or in some cases purple or blue coloured sores that most commonly develop on the skin at the ends of your toes. They can be painful, itchy and tender to touch and generally occur as a result of poor circulation cold temperatures. If left un-managed, the skin can break, causing them to blister becoming wounds which require professional podiatric treatment.
> What causes chilblains?
Chilblains are caused when blood vessels constrict when exposed to in cold conditions.
The cold damages the small capillaries, arteries and veins close to the surface of the skin.
This results in blood leaking from these vessels into the surround tissue causing inflammation and consequently a chilblain.
Chilblains usually appear within a few hours of exposure to the cold with symptoms present for the next 7-14 days. In some severe cases blistering, pustules, scabs and ulceration can occur which, if left untreated, can persist for many months.
> Who is likely to get chilblains?
Chilblains are more common in the elderly and children, but can occur at any age. Recurrences in the colder months are common but complete recovery in the warmer months is normal.
Factors that can increase the chances of chilblains include:
- Reduced or poor peripheral circulation
- Genetics and family history
- Poorly controlled diabetes
- Hypertension / Hyperlipidaemia
- Underweight patients
- Connective tissue disease such as lupus erythematosus
- Raynaud phenomenon
> Prevention is better than treatment
The best treatment for chilblains prevention. We have no control over the cold weather, especially here in Melbourne with our cold winters.
However, here are some tips and tricks to help you prevent chilblains occurring:
- Firstly, it is absolutely essential that you keep your feet as warm and dry as possible.
- If your feet do get cold or damp, make sure you gradually warm them up as going from one extreme to another will only make matters worse.
- Wear warm clothing including gloves, thick socks and comfortable footwear.
- Keeping active ensures that blood flow keeps pumping; especially before and during out door activities
- Avoid smoking as this will decrease your circulation
- Avoid scratching the itch – if the skin breaks it can create a wound.
And finally, ask for help!
If you have recurring chilblains it is recommended that you visit your local podiatrist.