Chilblains, also known as pernio, are a common winter complaint. The condition occurs when the small blood vessels in the skin react atypically to rewarming after exposure to cold. People with circulatory ailments, including Peripheral Arterial Disease and diabetes, and those with limited mobility are at particular risk. Seasonal recurrence is typical.
Doctors don’t know why some people get chilblains and others don’t. Men and women are at equal risk. Older people tend to be more likely to get chilblains than younger people are. It is also believed that heredity, anemia, poor nutrition, hormonal changes, and environmental conditions are all contributing factors.
Chilblains are characterized by small red spots on the skin, especially on the feet or toes. These typically grow and become increasingly painful and itchy and may even swell. Occasionally, they dry out and create cracks or ulcers in the skin. These cracks are of particular concern, as they expose the foot to infection, already a risk for patients with circulation issues.
Chilblains usually clear up in a few weeks, or when the weather gets warmer. Until that happens, there are steps you can take to decrease their discomfort:
- Limit your exposure to cold. If possible, stay inside on especially frigid days.
- Keep your body warm. Dress in layers. Cover exposed skin.
- Wear wool socks and insulated boots. Always change out of damp clothing as quickly as possible.
- Creams and lotions such as over the counter hydrocortisone and calamine will help manage the itch of chilblains.
Getting Help for Chilblains
If your chilblains cause severe pain, if you suspect an infection, if your symptoms aren't improving after a few weeks, or if the symptoms extend past winter, it’s time to visit the podiatrist to rule out other conditions. If you have diabetes or another circulatory ailment, you should be seen for monitoring at the onset of chilblains, as healing may be delayed or impaired. Infection is a greater risk for you than for others.
Are you experiencing chilblains or any other issue related to your feet, ankles, or lower legs? Call Advanced Feet and Ankle Care or click here today to schedule a convenient appointment with Jason Grossman, DPM in our comfortable Old Bridge or Sayreville offices. Dr. Jason Grossman will examine your feet, diagnose any concerns, create an effective treatment plan, and provide comprehensive follow up.