Chilblains are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in a person’s skin that occur in response to repeated exposure to cold but not freezing air. Also known as pernio, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling and blistering on their hands and feet.
Chilblains usually clear up within one to three weeks, especially if the weather gets warmer. A person may have recurrences seasonally for years. Treatment involves protecting oneself from the cold and using lotions to ease the symptoms.
Chilblains don’t usually result in permanent injury, but it can lead to infection, which may cause severe damage if left untreated.
Chilblains are patches of skin that appear swollen and red or occasionally blue in color. Due to the swelling, they may look shiny.
Other symptoms include;
- Burning sensation
While it’s unclear exactly what causes chilblains, there are a few things that might increase a person’s risk of developing them.
Some risk factors for chilblains include;
- Clothing that’s too tight or leaves skin exposed to cold, damp conditions
- Living in a damp climate
- Being female
- Weighing about 20 percent less or more than the healthy weight for a person’s height
- Having poor circulation
- Having lupus
- Having Raynaud’s phenomenon, which can cause its own types of sores
The first line of treatment for chilblains generally includes measures to keep hands and feet warm and dry, such as keeping the indoor environment warm and dry, using gloves and socks, and changing damp gloves and socks when needed.
If chilblains don’t clear up with these home remedies, the doctor may recommend medication, including;
- Nifedipine (Procaardia) – this type of blood pressure medication treats chilblains by helping to open up blood vessels and improve circulation. Side effects may include flushing, nausea, dizziness and swelling in the hands or feet.
- A topical corticosteroid – applying a corticosteroid cream to chilblains may help the lesions go away.
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