Chilblains | Symptoms & Treatment

Winter is here! And unfortunately, so also are chilblains. If the cold weather has resulted in your toes becoming red itchy or swollen, you may have chilblains. Chilblains often appear as red or purple patches on the toes.

What causes chilblains?

When our feet are cold or exposed to cold temperatures the capillaries in our toes shrink to maintain heat and warmth. If we then warm our feet too quickly this can lead to fluid and blood leaking into the toes and causing chilblains. 

Chilblains are quite common and can affect anyone of any age. However, we most commonly see them in older patients or those with autoimmune conditions such as Raynaud’s or lupus. This condition is also commonly seen in children or those with a family history of chilblains.

At first, you might notice your toes going pale and start to feel numb. If you warm up your feet too quickly by putting your feet next to a heater or taking a hot shower, the blood rushes to your feet before the blood vessels have a chance to open up properly. This can make those vessels burst or leak blood into tissues, which leads to swelling subsequently irritating the nerves in that area, causing pain and a burning sensation.

Chilblains can cause significant discomfort or pain in the toes if left untreated. In more severe cases they can blister and are also commonly seen on fingers.

How do I treat Chilblains?

If you are suffering from chilblains, let’s have a look at what you can do to help:

Do:

  • Resist the urge to scratch! This will make the symptoms worse.
  • Put on socks and slippers/shoes to begin warming your feet slowly.
  • Dry feet adequately after showering and dress them first with warm socks.
  • Layers! Try layers of loose clothing instead of one bulky item of clothing, as this traps body heat more efficiently. Try woollen and cotton socks.
  • Wear socks and shoes when going out, especially on cold days.
  • Using a soothing lotion such as calamine. Calamine lotion can be used to relieve discomfort where chilblains have caused the skin to become broken.
  • Wax foot baths are also effective in relieving discomfort and rewarming the feet, a service we offer in the clinic at TFC Podiatry.

Don’t:

  • Put your feet directly in front of the heater to warm up.
  • Jump straight into a steaming hot shower, instead start with a warm shower and gradually increase temperature. 
  • Walk around barefoot particularly on cold flooring such as tiles. Instead, pop some socks and slippers on.
  • Avoid applying heat directly to your feet even though it may seem natural to want to crank up the heat, warming up the area too quickly can make the symptoms worse. It’s better to warm your whole body gradually instead.
  • Try not to wear clothing that is too tight as it restricts the blood flow to those areas.

If you think you may have chilblains it is important to have them properly assessed. Our podiatrists at Point Cook, Avondale Heights, and Yarraville are able to assess your feet and develop a management and treatment plan to help you. Give us a call on 03 9191 0117 today to book an appointment!

 

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