It is coming to that time of year when the weather gets colder, which means that many people can be suceptible to chilblains. What are chilblains? They are small, itchy and red/purple swellings that can occur on the feet , hands, ears and nose, which can become very painful. Chilblains usually develop after exposure to the cold, resulting in toes and heels burning and itching especially on coming into the warmth. It is important to try to avoid itching the skin because if it becomes broken a secondary infection may follow.
What causes chilblains? Chilblains are a result of an abnormal reaction of the tiny blood vessels in the feet to the cold. As the feet gets cold the blood vessels narrow and when the feet warm up the blood vessels dilate causing a leakage into the surrounding tissues.This causes the swelling, redness and itching. Some people are more prone to developing chilblains than others.This includes people with poor circulation, anybody who regularly works in cold damp conditions, smokers will be more at risk due to the nicotine constricting the blood vessels and patients with conditions such as Raynaud’s.
What can I do the prevent / treat chilblains? It is crucial to wear shoes that are well insulated with a thick sole. Thermal linings can be bought to go inside the shoes. Thick socks are also very important, preferably made from wool or a high wool content. Keeping active will also help the circulation and drinking hot drinks and food will help the metabolism. It can help to warm socks and shoes on a radiator before going outside and once returning to the warmth do not try to reheat feet too quickly. There is little evidence that creams and potions will help but if the chilblains are broken it is important to apply an antiseptic cream. Most chilblains will heal themselves in a few weeks, particularly as the weather improves. Should your feet become infected it is important to seek medical help from your podiatrist or GP. Your doctor can prescribe Nifedipine tablets, which is a tablet that relaxes the blood vessels to improve circulation.
If you require any help or advice then I am available at Oaklands Clinic at Romiley in Stockport.