Although it may sound like a folksy term, early settlers would use this to describe some cold weather ailment. Chilblains actually refer to a real skin condition that occurs due to an abnormal reaction to cold and one that we treat at New England Foot & Ankle Specialists. Chilblains most commonly occur on the extremities of the body—those areas furthest from the heart and therefore the coldest—fingers, nose, ear lobes and, in your feet, the toes. People with circulation problems in their feet have an increased risk for chilblains.
Chilblains appear as small, swollen red spots on the skin, which are usually itchy and painful. The chilblains will swell and then dry up, creating cracks in the skin. If you have a bunion or other toe issue that is caused by excessive pressure or squeezing of the toes, that area is more susceptible to developing chilblains.
Are Chilblains Dangerous?
The biggest medical threat presented by chilblains is infection. The cuts and cracks in the skin create open sores and ulcers and provide an entry point for bacteria. Once an infection develops, the toe can become swollen, hot to the touch and there may be drainage of pus or fluid. This is particularly dangerous if you are a patient with diabetes because poor circulation and decreased immunity can result in an open wound that is difficult to heal. Diabetic patients should contact our Reading office immediately if you notice chilblains (or any sores or blisters on your feet or toes). Our podiatrists, George A. Abboud, D.P.M., Brian D. Tedesco, D.P.M., Carl Conui, D.P.M., and Kimberly Thurmond, D.P.M. will want to examine your feet and treat any sores as quickly as possible to head off the possibility of infection.
Fortunately, the uncomfortable symptoms of itching and burning can usually be relieved with calamine lotion. If an ulcer has formed, the foot doctor may want to apply an antiseptic dressing to the wound. Wearing extra warm socks and limiting time outside when temperatures drop is recommended for patients that have developed chilblains in the past.
If you have a rash or blisters on your foot and you are unsure what the cause is, make an appointment at one of our Middlesex County offices by calling: (781) 944-4044. We’re here to address your concerns.