Chilblains

Written by Dr. Mary

What are chilblains?

Chilblain, also known as perniosis,is a medical skin condition that involves painful inflammation affecting the blood vessels found under the skin. Chilblains is a condition which is sometimes confused with frostbite because of its appearance. The color change or appearance of red patches is found on the toes, feet, ears, hands and fingers.


In general, chilblains are caused by a unique way of reaction to one’s body to cold. This primarily happens when a person has been exposed to cold and then was immediately warmed. The immediate change in temperature affects or causes the small blood vessels found under the skin to become expanded or dilated. This dilatation can result to leaking out of some of the blood component to the tissues as for the small blood vessels cannot handle the pressure that is being exerted during the phenomenon. Chilblains can also be in acute form. This can last for about 12 hours, with a maximum of 24 hours. Chronic chilblains are possible when the condition has lasted for more than five months, in rare cases where years are involved.

Those at risk for this condition are women. Women are said to be prone from acquiring this condition but the root for causing such incidence is unknown. Those who are underweight are also noted to be at risk for chilblains, especially those who have less 20 percent of their body weight. Another risk factor includes the area where a person lives in. If one lives in a humid area, chilblains are commonly experienced. One would expect that a person who lives in cold climate areas are most likely to suffer from chilblains, but it is the opposite.

This is because of the tendency of people to wear protective clothing from cold climates that makes them insusceptible to chilblains, unlike those who live in humid areas who are caught off guard when a sudden decrease in temperature occurs. According to reports, chilblains are common in the months of November to April. Also, those who have poor circulation are prone to such condition and due to their sensitivity to climate changes.

Another risk factor for chilblains is having an underlying condition, Raynaud’s phenomenon. This is also related to chilblains for its presentation is also color changes of the skin from extreme temperature. Study show that Raynaud’s phenomenon is triggered by smoking, one becomes at risk for chilblains if he or she smokes regularly.

Chilblains on feet

These are chilblains that appear on the feet of an affected person. Usually, these are found on the toes and bunions, areas where most weight is placed or exerted on. Red lumps are also noted and if not treated immediately, infection may occur.

Chilblains on hands

The hands are quite affected too by chilblains. The redness and burning sensation may be absent on this area when chilblains appear on the fingers and feet, still the tingling and itching sensation would radiate to the hands. It is important that warming of the hands is practiced regularly to avoid the occurrence of chilblains.

Chilblains on fingers

One of the common areas of the chilblains to appear is the fingers. This is due to the small blood vessels that occupy the area. Usually, the patient shall complain of pain and redness in the back and sides of the fingers. Other local areas that are affected of chilblains are the earlobes and tip of the nose.

Chilblains Symptoms & signs

Those affected with chilblains would experience the following:

  • Small reddened areas on the skin that are complained to be itchy.
  • Swelling is noted.
  • Burning sensation.
  • Cyanosis is noted, which is usually noted with pain.
  • There is possible blistering and formation of ulcers. These are the complications of chilblains. It shall become a real problem when infection takes place and would place the patient in a life-threatening situation.

Chilblains Pictures

Chilblains fingersPicture 1: Chilblains on fingers

Image source : blogspot.com

Chilblains feetPicture 2: Chilblains On feet

Image source : foothealthcare.com

Chilblains

Picture 3: Chilblains on legs

Chilblains Diagnosis

Chilblains can be diagnosed through the simple physical examination. Once the signs and symptoms are noted and one is unsure of, consulting a chiropodist will be referred to you by the doctor.

Chilblains Treatment

Treatment for chilblains is aimed to decrease the discomfort that the affected is experiencing. These are the forms of treatment for chilblains:

  • Corticosteroids. This can be in cream form or topical agent that would relieve the swelling of the area and the itchiness.
  • Antihypertensive. This is recommended as this can help reduce the pressure in the blood vessels that play a role in triggering chilblains. This can help open the blood vessels and avoid for more rupture.
  • Apply warm packs. Make sure that the compress is not too hot. This can relieve the swelling.
  • Clean the area regularly. With the use of antiseptic, we can avoid the development of infection. Make sure the inflamed areas are not exposed to dirty elements that may contain bacterial agents that causes for an infection.

Chilblains Prevention

This can be prevented with the total avoidance of extreme cold temperature and the abrupt remedy of heart. This should be done by those who are especially at risk for chilblains formations:

  • Wear warm clothes.
  • Make sure that the skin is not exposed to extreme cold weather by covering them up securely.
  • Keep self warm as always.
  • If one has an installed heating device at home, make use of it.
  • Stop smoking. The component of cigarette, nicotine, can induce blood vessel constriction making a person at risk for developing chilblains.
  • Avoid drinking too much coffee for it contains caffeine which causes for blood vessel constriction.
  • One should improve their circulation. This can be done by having a healthy lifestyle and staying active.
  • Do not wear shoes that can restrict good blood circulation.

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