Do you suffer in the cold where your extremities are affected, well you may have chilblains? If you would like to find out more, please read on.
What are chilblains?
Chilblains are where your blood vessels in the skin constrict forming a painful reddish, bluish lesion on the skin.
Chilblains occur mainly in fingers, toes, ears, and face. Chilblains commonly develop in people with poor circulation and those exposed to colder climates. Those at a higher risk of developing chilblains are younger girls, older ladies, individuals with a lower body mass index and smokers.
What do chilblains look like?
As mentioned earlier, chilblains mainly look like tiny itchy/painful red/blue areas of skin that are commonly found on fingers, toes, ears, and face. During sudden cold spells chilblains occur, whose initial symptoms are burning and itching, and this can intensify when the areas are warmed up. In some more severe cases the chilblain may break the skin down and become an ulcer and this can further develop into infection as there is a break in the skin barrier and healing is slower due the vasospasm of the blood vessels.
How can I prevent chilblains from occurring?
This can be achieved best by following the advice below. Keeping your feet warm in a normal way is essential in the prevention.
- Leg warmers, woollen socks, sheepskin slippers should be used.
- Feet should not be placed in front of a heat source when they are cold
- Feet should not be exposed to direct heat such as heaters, fires, and hot water bottles.
- Cessation of smoking as this reduces peripheral circulation by making the blood thicker and restricting the blood flow and less oxygen reaching the tissues.
What can be done about chilblains?
Self-management is important in the treatment of chilblains. Below are some tips of what to do and not what to do when self-management is concerned.
- If you are diabetic or have poor circulation, then you should definitely see a podiatrist
- You should never rub or pick at area of concern
- Soothing lotions, such as calamine lotion may be used
- If the skin of concern is broken, then antiseptic dressing should be used to prevent the chilblains being infected
- Circulation can be improved with exercise and quitting smoking if you are a smoker
There are a number of treatment options for the podiatrist. Below are some treatment options:
- Laser therapy is a gentle heat treatment that we use in the clinic to treat chilblains. It works by increasing local vasodilation to enhance blood flow to the tissues.
- Padding may give pressure relief from chilblains symptoms
- Topical steroids may be used in some cases where there is severe swollen chilblains
- Corns and calluses are frequent on pressure areas where chilblains may present, so removing these may deliver symptomatic relief.
- Heparin ointment may be used in some people to enhance circulation.
- Other medical conditions may be the reason you are presenting with chilblains such as Raynaud’s phenomenon.
Here at The Footcare Clinic our podiatrist commonly treat a range of lower limb skin conditions. If you or anyone you know is suffering from chilblains or any skin condition in the lower limb, our podiatrists will give you a thorough dermatological assessment and work out the best way to manage your condition. Booking online for appointment is super easy or you can call our clinic on (03) 9711 7562 and our team will be able to help you.