Alternative names :: Perniosis, Chilblain
What is chilblains?
Chilblains are the unprotected skin’s response to extreme cold. The lesions caused are on the extremities, the toes and fingers. A chilblain is a small, itchy blue or red swellings occur in the winter on the toes but can occur on the finger, face and the nose. Chilblain usually occur several hours after exposure to the cold in temperate humid climates. Initial symptoms include burning and itching in the area of the developing chilblain.
Chilblains Causes And Symptoms
In chilblains, freezing causes the terminal blood vessels to shut down. This is called vasoconstriction. The local tissue metabolism being at an extremely low ebb, the requirement for oxygen is much more, due to the extreme cold. Vasoconstriction decreases blood supply, which leads to tissue damage. Chilblains are itchy, red skin lesions, with or without a slight swelling, or even blistering, at the site. The swelling increases when heat is applied to give warmth. Untreated, or unheeded, these become haemorrhagic and even infected. Prevention, in this, as in most cases, is better than cure. Keep warm, be adequately clothed, keep dry and keep moving. Avoid smoking. Factors that contribute to tendency to chilblain include :
- a familial tendency.
- poor circulation.
- hormonal changes.
- some connective tissue disorders and some bone marrow disorders.
- Damp living conditions may also increase the risk for chilblains.
- poor nutrition.
To prevent the chilblain you should keep your legs and body warm, especially if you have poor circulation. If your feet do get cold, allow them to warm up slowly. Do not let the feet become exposed to any source of direct heat (like a heater), especially if the foot is very cold – this is a common factor causing chilblains.
Home Remedies To Prevent Chilblains
- The part of the body that has chilblains should be elevated. This will reduce the swelling. Stay indoors in a warm room and let the body adjust to the warm room temperature naturally. Only then start with gentle, slow massage.
- Grind a few black peppercorns and fry them in a tablespoonful of hot mustard or sesame seed oil. Filter, and while still warm, use this oil for massage. Make sure the skin is not abraded or bruised, or else this will cause pain and inflammation. Helps to cure the chilblains.
- A folk remedy is to make a paste with a tablespoonful of honey, glycerine, egg white and wholemeal flour. Spread this over the chilblain and leave it overnight. This forms an insulation from the cold and lets the body heal from within. Wash it off with warm water in the morning. Helps in reducing the chilblains.
- Regular massage of hands and feet in winter with any warmed vegetable oil, with a few drops of lemon added, improves circulation. Use the discarded halves of lemons to cup them around fingers and toes, and rub them for a while. Wash off with warm water. Cures your chilblain very quickly.
- Soak hands or feet in a warm infusion of marigold flowers to which a spoonful of sea salt has been added.
- If you suffer from chilblain use this remedy regularly winter. Cut a raw onion. Use the cut edge all over the chilblains; let the juice soak into the skin. The severity of itching dies down almost instantly and also helps in reducing the chilblain.
- Warm broken wheat or oatmeal porridge can be used to dip the fingers in, as a cure for chilblains.
- Slice a potato. Sprinkle some salt on it. Rub it all over the chilblain. Helps to soothe the itching and redness.
Treatment in case of severe chilblains
In case of the severe chilblain you need professional attention. A qualified podiatrist can treat your chilblain and offer advice on prevention. If you have a pre-existing condition such as diabetes, see your doctor if your chilblain ulcerate.