Chilblains - Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Occurrence of Chilblains is a skin disorder which is an abnormal reaction to cold weather conditions. In this skin condition, very tiny, painful and itchy lumps develop under the skin due to abnormal reaction of skin to cold weather. Once this condition occurs, it clears up generally within one or two weeks. Exact cause of chilblains is not known. But one thing is observed that people with chilblains may have abnormal proteins which tend to sludge while weather conditions are very cool. People who are prone to chilblains should cover themselves in winters to stay warm.

It is seen that chilblains affects mostly small toes but sometimes can occur at face, nose or fingers also. Bumps are red or purple in color. Chilblains are quite common conditions for people staying in cold weather conditions.

Pernio is another form for this condition and localized form of Vasculitis. Tight fitting shoes can also aggravate this condition by pressing of skin of toes. Chilblains usually occur at the end points of the organs such as toes, fingers, nose and earlobes, which feel extreme cold. Though chilblains are not life threatening but if not treated on time, it can lead to severe damage.

Even after it is healed, some people develop sensitivity to the cold. In further stages of severe conditions, chilblains can ulcerate, chap or crack and this condition is called kibe.

This condition of chilblains is quite similar to that of frostbite which also the result of very cold weather conditions. Another observation about chilblains is young people who have Raynaud’s syndrome are prone to this problem. People living in damp and cold conditions can have chilblains. But people who are living extreme cold weather regions, do not commonly get chilblains because air is drier. Also their living conditions and clothing protect them from cold.

Chilblains develop mostly on where peripheral circulation is poor like in limbs. Some people may get chilblains, if they suddenly and quickly warm up some part like they quickly warm their hands by sitting very close to fire or by a hot water bottle. A quick change in temperature can aggravate chilblains.

It is not that everyone living in cold and damp conditions will get chilblains but the people who are extremely sensitive to weather and temperature conditions are prone to it.

What are the causes of Chilblains?

Chilblains may be caused by following reasons:

Abnormal reaction of body to cold weather

Sudden change in temperature. If skin is too cold and quickly warmed like by coming near fire, there is risk of chilblains.

Poor nutrition may play a part.

Poor blood circulation to the tips of fingers and toes.

Dietary and hormonal imbalance and anemia can cause chilblains.

What are Symptoms and Signs of Chilblains?

Signs and symptoms of chilblains are as follows:

Appearance of small, red bumps lumps under the skin.

Sometimes skin over the lumps of chilblains, get blistered which may delay healing.

There is lot of itching and sometimes there may be inflammation also.

There may be secondary infection.

In severe cases, chilblains may become ulcer.

Over the time chilblains take up a blue appearance and become extremely painful.

Swelling may appear in affected skin.

As itching is severe, patients scratches too hard sometimes and it leads to cracking of skin. Due to this small ulcers appear which may get secondary infection.

What are the Treatments for Chilblains?

There are treatments are available to treat chilblains. Treatment is done according to the severity and symptoms of condition. First thing, person should not scratch the lumps; it aggravates the condition.

To ease itching and swelling, a potent topical steroid ointment is applied for few days. Alamine lotion is prescribed sometimes. Nifedipine is recommended to dilate the small blood vessels and it can prevent chilblains. Doctor can prescribe it to the people who have recurrent case of chilblains. To retain body heat Lanolin or something like that can be rubbed on the feet. To treat the ulcers and secondary infection, topical antibiotic creams are applied.

How to Prevent Chilblains:

People prone to chilblains, should keep their feet and hands warm during winters by wearing socks and gloves. Before going out in cold, exercise vigorously, to increase blood circulation in the toes and fingers. Avoid quick change in temperature of the skin.

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