What are Chilblains?

At this time of year the cold weather can have many effects on us as well as colds and lingering coughs that many of us have the misfortune to pick up.  Over the winter months the cold can also play its part on our feet.

One such problem is perniosis or pernio, commonly known as chilblains.

Chilblains are diagnosed on clinical grounds and should be suspected when a person has one or more intensely itchy, painful, swollen skin lesions that appear within 12–24 hours of exposure to cold.

    • The lesions appear as single or multiple (usually symmetric) red patches, papules, on a cool/cold swollen base
    • They occur most commonly on the toes and fingers
    • The colour can change from red to purple (or marked darkening in people with dark skin), and swelling can progress to painful. In severe cases, it can lead to the chilblain becoming “broken” due to blistering or ulceration.

People presenting with an acute or recurrent episode of chilblains should be reassured that the condition is self-limiting, caused by exposure to cold, and will resolve if further exposure to cold is avoided.

To avoid chilblains we advise the following:

  • Dressing warmly to protect the feet, for example thermal socks
  • Avoiding scratching, rubbing, or applying direct heat.
  • Smoking cessation, if relevant.
  • Keeping dry to reduce heat loss.
  • If you are prone to chilblains each year then start applying a chilblain cream such as balmossa from late autumn through to spring in the hope this prevents the development.

If you are currently suffering from chilblains and they are unbroken or intact carry out the above but if they are ulcerated then book an appointment with a Podiatrist so that they can be assessed and made more comfortable (via padding/dressing and possible low level laser therapy) as infection can often occur in this case, if left.

In extreme cases the Podiatrist may ask your GP for a medicine called Nefidipine to be prescribed which is causes vasodilation in the extremities and therefore improved blood flow to the extremities, which can aid healing or prevent development.

If you are suffering from chilblains and want further advice or treatment from one of our podiatrists please call 01932 849373 or book online.

This blog has been written by Paul Sen and is not necessarily the opinion of The Footcare Centre Ltd

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