Introduction to Chilblains

A chilblain is a small, red swelling on the skin which can be very itchy and gradually becomes very painful. Chilblains usually occur on the smaller toes but can occur on the finger, face and the nose. They occur due to an abnormal reaction of the body to cold. A chilblain may also occur on a pressure bearing area such as a bunion.


• A chilblain will usually appear as a red, swollen lesion.
• They can dry out leaving cracks in the skin, which expose the skin to infection.


• The lesion becomes increasingly painful.
• The lesion becomes very itchy.
• Patients may suffer from a burning sensation on their feet.
• In extreme cases the surface of the skin may break and an infection may develop.


• A chilblain is an abnormal reaction to cold.
• Elderly people with poor circulation are at a greater risk.
• Young adults who work outdoors or in cold conditions, such as butchers, are also at risk.
• If the skin is chilled and then followed by too rapid warming such as a gas fire, a chilblain may develop.
• Damp living conditions can also be a contributing factor.
• The sudden onset of very cold water on the skin can also lead to a chilblain.
• Other contributing factors include dietary, hormonal imbalance and people who suffer from anaemia.


Causes & Treatment Options for Chilblains


• Keep legs and body warm, especially if you have poor circulation.
• Leg warmers and thick woollen socks may be of benefit.


• Don’t scratch them.


• Advise soothing lotions such as witch hazel and calamine.
• If the chilblain is infected, the chiropodist will apply antiseptic dressings.
• The chiropodist may recommend a mixture of friar’s balsam and weak iodine to paint onto the lesion and/or Lanolin ointment to rub in to the feet at night to retain heat.


• Gout
• Fungal infection of the skin.



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