Risk factors for Chilblains
Some people are more at risk of chilblains than others. This includes people with:
- Poor circulation
- Family history of chilblains
- Regular exposure to cold, damp or draughty conditions
- Poor diet or low body weight
- Lupus – a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues
- Raynaud's phenomenon – a common condition that affects the blood supply to certain parts of the body, usually the fingers and toes
People who smoke are more at risk of chilblains as nicotine constricts blood vessels.
Chilblains can also occur on areas of the feet that are exposed to pressure, such as a bunion or a toe that's squeezed by tight shoes.
Complications of Chilblains
Chilblains may cause complications if your skin blisters. If you have severe or recurring chilblains, there's a small risk of further problems developing, such as:
- Infection from blistered or scratched skin
- Ulcers forming on the skin
- Permanent discolouration of the skin
- Scarring of the skin
It's often possible to avoid these complications by not scratching or rubbing the affected areas of skin. You should avoid direct overheating the chilblains by using hot water etc.
You can also help reduce your risk of infection by cleaning any breaks in your skin with antiseptic and covering the area with an antiseptic dressing. The dressing should be changed every other day until the skin heals.
If the skin does become infected, antibiotics may be prescribed to treat the infection.
Diagnosis of Chilblains
Usually you won't 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 talking with you about any recent cold exposure. The exam might also include checking your circulation.
Treatment for Chilblains
Most people don't need to seek medical advice if they have chilblains as they usually heal within a few weeks and don't cause any permanent problems.
For adults whose chilblains don't clear up with home remedies, treatment may include prescription drugs:
A corticosteroid such as triamcinolone 0.1 percent cream is applied to the affected area.
Blood pressure medicine.
A blood pressure lowering drug called nifedipine (Procardia). It can help open up blood vessels.
Prevention of Chilblains
If you're susceptible to chilblains, you can reduce your risk of developing them by:
- Limiting your exposure to the cold
- Looking after your feet
- Taking steps to improve your circulation
If your skin gets cold, it's important to warm it up gradually. Heating the skin too quickly, for example by placing your feet in hot water or near a heater, is one of the main causes of chilblains.