Have you noticed that after spending time in the cold, your feet are hot, red, and itchy? You may be dealing with a case of chilblains, known in the medical world as pernio.
Simply put, chilblains are an abnormal dermatologic reaction to cold. Small blood vessels in the skin constrict when exposed to cold. If the skin is then warmed rapidly and the blood vessels do not respond quickly enough to compensate, there is leakage of blood into the soft tissue. This most often happens in the feet, although it can also occur in the hands, ears, or nose.
People with health issues that affect circulation, such as diabetes, are particularly at risk of chilblains. Some people experience chilblains every winter. Others deal with them only sporadically. They are more common in women, and there may be a hormonal factor in play, although doctors haven’t really pinpointed a cause.
The most obvious symptom of chilblains is a series of small itchy, red swellings on the skin. It’s easy to confuse this symptom with eczema or a rash; however, chilblains often become increasingly painful, swell, blister, and eventually dry out, leaving cracks or ulcers in the skin and exposing the foot to the risk of infection.
The best way to prevent chilblains is to stay warm. Stay home if you don’t have to venture outside on particularly cold days. Be sure to cover up and to wear layers. Wool socks and lined boots are particularly important. Keep slippers handy when you’re at home. These steps are especially important for older patients, people with limited mobility, and those with circulatory ailments including Raynaud’s disease.
Chilblains typically resolve on their own in a couple of weeks. Until they do, a bit of calamine lotion or hydrocortisone cream should help make you comfortable. An over the counter analgesic such as acetaminophen can be useful as well. If they are particularly painful or if skin cracks or ulcerated wounds occur, you should see your foot doctor as soon as possible.
If you are concerned about chilblains or anything else related to the health of your feet and ankles, contact us online or call (973) 383-3115 to schedule an appointment with Craig Wexler, DPM in Wexler Foot Center’s comfortable and convenient Newton, New Jersey office today. Dr. Wexler will examine your feet, diagnose any issues, create an effective treatment plan, and provide comprehensive aftercare to help you feel better as quickly as possible.