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Chilblains - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


Chilblains is the most common type of cold injury and occurs when there is exposure of the affected area to a dry cold. A chilblain can chap, crack or ulcerate and then is known as a kibe. Chilblains are more likely to develop in those with poor circulation , but chilblains are still common in those with good circulation. Also called erythema pernio.

The young and the elderly are especially prone to cold injury. Alcohol increases the risk of cold injury which can lead to loss of body parts and even to death. It is used to describe cold-blisters on or inflammation of the fingers, toes or ears. They are most common in the young and the elderly, and are more likely to occur in women. They can be prevented by keeping the feet and hands warm in cold weather. A chilblain or pernio is an itchy purple red inflammation of the skin.

Causes of Chilblains:

The important causes of chilblains are as:-

  • Chilblains are usually caused by an abnormal reaction of the body to the cold.
  • An inadequate diet, or an allergic response to low temperatures are the main causes of chilblains.
  • The hormonal imbalance, can also lead to the condition of chilblains.
  • Chilblain usually occur several hours after exposure to the cold in temperate humid climates.
  • Elderly people with a poor circulation are at a greater risk.
  • If the skin is chilled and then followed by too rapid warming such as a gas fire, a chilblain may develop.
  • Damp living conditions can also be a contributing factor to chilblains.
  • Some connective tissue disorders and some bone marrow disorders increases the risk of chilblains.

Symptoms of Chilblains:

The possible causes of chilblains may be as:-

  • The patient may experiences an itchy and painful lesion.
  • In some cases the skin over a chilblain may blister which may delay healing.
  • The skin get dry, which inturn leading to splits and cracks.
  • The ulceration may be occur, in severe cases.
  • The affected area get swell.
  • The chilblain will initially be red but can become a dark blue in color.
  • Patients may suffer from a burning sensation on their feet.
  • The red patches over the affected area are common during chilblains.
  • The tenderness over the chilblains often develops.

Treatments of Chilblains:

The effective treatments of chilblains includes:-

  • The primary treatment is to slowly rewarm the affected skin after cold exposure.
  • Steroid creams may also be used to help relieve itching and swelling.
  • Wear woollen or cotton socks.
  • Gentle exercise will improve circulation to your feet.
  • Use the medications that improve your blood circulation.
  • Avoid overheating with hot baths and showers, and the direct heat of electric blankets, hot water bottles and heaters.
  • The topical antibiotic cream is very effective in treating broken skin.
  • A range of soothing creams and lotions such as calamine lotion can be applied to the affected area.
  • Apply the lanolin into the feet, will help retain body heat.