Chilblains also termed as Pernio can be defined as a type of painful skin inflammation where small blood vessels appear on the surface of the skin as a result of repeated exposure to cold air but not freezing. They are usually localised form of vasculitis and can even cause sores and blisters in some cases. It generally appears on the extremities like fingers, toes and ears and mostly affects the elders and infants. Also Read: Frost Bite: Causes, Symptoms And Treatment
Although the exact cause of chilblains is yet unknown, some researchers suggest that it can occur due to an abnormal reaction of the body, there is some leakage of fluid from the blood vessels into the tissues which in some way causes areas of inflammation and swelling, ultimately leading to chilblains.
The various causative factors that may increase the risk of chilblains include:
Sex: It is more commonly seen in women than in men.
Weight: People having underweight conditions are more at risk of getting chilblains.
Type Of Clothing: Exposing the skin in cold temperatures or wearing an extreme tight-fitted cloth or shoe in freezing weather aggravates the chances of developing chilblains.
Blood Circulation: People having a poor blood circulation are more susceptible to temperature changes and have an increased risk of chilblains.
Environmental Factors: Chilblains is less common in colder and drier areas because the people living in these places are already used to extreme cold weather and hence the clothing used in these areas are more protective against cold. The risk of chilblains is higher in people living in an area with high humidity and cold, but not freezing temperatures.
Smoking: People addicted to chain-smoking or tobacco are more at risk of getting chilblains. Also Read: No Smoking Day: 5 More Reasons To Kick The Butt ASAP
The common signs and symptoms of chilblains include:
- Appearance of small, itchy red areas on the skin of your fingers, hands or feet
- Skin ulcers and blisters
- Swelling of the skin
- Burning sensation and itchiness of the skin
- Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain
- Skin inflammation
If the condition is left untreated, chilblains may lead to skin blisters, severe ulcerations and infections. Besides being painful, these infections are potentially life-threatening and can even be fatal.
Diagnosis And Treatment
Although in certain cases, it might recover on its own, if the conditions are severe, it is strictly advised to consult a doctor for further treatment. The doctor usually does a thorough physical check-up and does a skin test and acknowledges the patients travel history or any such instances where he or she might have faced extreme weather conditions. In some rare cases, the doctor may even ask to get a biopsy done to rule out other tumour possibilities such as basal cell carcinoma.
As the first line of treatment, the doctor usually suggests measures to keep the hands and feet toasty warm to prevent further aggravation. In some cases, the doctor may prescribe for some medications to improve the blood circulation and some topical creams to diminish the skin lesions and inflammation.
Some lifestyle changes and home remedies suggested by doctor’s include:
- Avoiding further cold exposure
- Rewarming affected skin gently by rubbing
- Keeping your affected skin dry and warm
- Applying topical prescribed lotions to alleviate itching and inflammation
- Ensuring that the affected skin is cleaned with an antiseptic and gently bandaged to prevent infection