Chilblains, also called pernio, is a condition wherein the small blood vessels under the skin become inflamed with the sudden warming of cold skin. It is primarily characterized by blisters on the extremities. It is more common in those who suffer from poor circulation or are extremely sensitive to cold temperatures. Although it can be incredibly painful, it is easily treatable through the use of topical creams and a number of preventative measures.
Causes and Symptoms
Chilblains occurs as the result of an atypical reaction of the skin to an extreme change in temperature. The blood vessels underneath the skin expand at an abnormal rate that is unable to be handled by larger blood vessels, causing the blood to back up, accumulate and leak into neighboring tissues. Unfortunately, why this occurs in some and not others is unknown. It is more common in women, and can occur and recur then stop without warning.
Symptoms of chilblains include the following: red areas of the skin accompanied by itchiness, swelling and pain; blistering of the skin and ulcerations; and a change in skin color from red to a dark blue, which is often accompanied by pain.
Treatment and Prevention
Treating chilblains is simple and involves the use of topical medications containing corticosteroids, which work by alleviating pain, swelling and inflammation. Drugs such as Procardia and Adalat, the main ingredient of which is nifedipine, are often used to treat chilblains, though these are only slightly successful. Lanolin lotion, which can help improve circulation, can be applied as well.
In the event that the condition has progressed and caused open sores or ulcers, proper care such as careful cleaning and bandaging is necessary to prevent an infection from occurring. Topical antiseptics can be used to treat the open sores as well.
The best way to effectively treat chilblains is to prevent it from occurring in the first place. Instead of placing the affected skin in direct contact with a heat source such as a space heater or campfire. Dress in warm clothing, and cover any skin exposed to cold weather when going outside. Examples include wearing warm socks and gloves.