CHLBLAINES

ABOUT CHILBLAINS

Chilblains typically occur in colder climates as they represent an abnormal response of the circulation to cold.   Normally when the skin is exposed to cold (typically the fingers and toes) the blood vessels in the skin close up to conserve body heat.  When the temperature returns to normal the blood vessels open up providing oxygen and nutrients to the skin in the area.

 

In people who suffer with chilblains this response doesn't work properly and the blood vessels remain shut  down too long before then opening rapidly.  This can cause damage to the tiny blood vessels leading to leakage of blood into the tissues.

ARE CHILBLAINS DANGEROUS?

No, chilblains can be uncomfortable but rarely cause any permanent damage. They normally heal within a few weeks if further exposure to the cold is avoided.

WHO IS AT RISK OF CHILBLAINS?

The following groups of people are at greater risk of developing chilblaines:

  • Poor circulation

  • Smokers

  • A family history of chilblains

  • People frequently exposed to cold, damp or draughty conditions

  • People with very poor diet or low body weight

  • If you have pressure points such as "bunions"

  • If you have a rare condition called "lupus"

  • Raynauds is a similar but more serious condition

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT CHILBLAINS?

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some simple tips you might want to consider.

  • Try and reduce your exposure to the cold & damp

  • Wear appropriate hosiery and footwear

  • Keep moving to improve your circulation

  • Stop smoking

  • Ask about specially made thermal shoe liners 

WHAT HAPPENS IF I DEVELOP A CHILBLAIN?

Most chilblains will resolve over time, usually a week or so when the feet or hands are kept away from excessive cold / damp environments.  Here are some other tips:

  • DO NOT TOAST YOUR TOES IN FRONT OF THE FIRE

  • Keep the feet protected

  • Ask your pharmacist for an over-the-counter treatment

  • IF YOU ARE DIABETIC MAKE AN APPOINTMENT

WHAT IF I SUFFER BADLY?

Some people do suffer badly and may benefit from taking a medicine to open up the blood vessels during the cold weather.