What are Chilblains?

Chilblains are small, red or sometimes purple marks on the skin, commonly occurring on the extremities such as the fingers and toes. They can become painful, itchy and sometimes blister, crack and break the skin causing an ulceration, increasing the risk of infection.


What causes them?

Chilblains are caused by the skin’s abnormal reaction to the cold where the blood vessels at the skins surface constrict under cold conditions, reducing blood flow until the areas warm up again.  If the areas warm up too quickly, these blood vessels can sometimes struggle to handle the sudden increase in blood flow, causing the blood to leak into the surrounding tissue resulting in swelling and itching. Rapid temperature changes from cold to hot can result in the development of Chilblains.


Who can get them?

Chilblains are common amongst adults who spend a lot of time outdoors in the cold or who do not wear warm enough socks or shoes in the winter. Those with poor circulation or other underlying health conditions such as Raynaud’s and Lupus are also more prone to developing them. Some people can develop them every year as the seasons change.

They can also be common in open water swimmers if they warm up too quickly after a swimming in cold temperatures.

How to prevent them:

  • The most effective way to prevent chilblains is to keep your body, hands, legs and feet warm and at a consistent temperature.
  • Wear good quality gloves, tights, warm socks and warm footwear when especially when outdoors in the cold.
  • Warm up gradually after being exposed to colder temperatures.
  • Avoid going from really cold temperatures to warmer temperatures too quickly.
  • Avoid direct contact with hot water bottles and radiators.
  • Maintain a healthy and active lifestyle.

What are the treatments?

  • Chilblains usually get better on their own after a week or two without any specific treatment.
  • Topical treatment such as calamine or which hazel may help relieve any itching.
  • If they become broken, blistered or ulcerated, applying a clean, dry, sterile dressing will help reduce the risk of infection.
  • If you have Diabetes, are immunosuppressed or undergoing any medical treatment, it is important to have them assessed and treated by your Podiatrist.

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    Cheshire Foot Clinic

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