How do you prevent chilblains?

Chilblains are a common painful skin condition that typically affects the feet, but can occur on the hand, ears and nose. They are more common in colder climates but are not necessarily due to the cold. They are due to there being a too rapid warming of the skin after it has been cold. Due to demands in the surface of the skin as the tissues warm the blood vessels normally open up and increase blood flow. In a chilblain these blood vessels remain closed for longer setting up an inflammatory reaction. Eventually the do open up to increase blood flow. This abnormal response of the small blood vessels to the changes in temperature various inflammatory chemical get releases causing an itching and inflammation.

Initially chilblains appear as painful red spots on the skin that are itchy. After a while they become chronic and take on a darker bluish colour. They make break down and an infection can also sometime develop in them. The best way to deal with chilblains is to prevent them happening. This usually means not letting the skin get cold and if it does get cold, letting the skin warm up slowly so the small blood vessels have time to adapt to that change in temperature. Once a chilblain has developed it needs to be protected. Shoes should not be so tight that hey increase the pressure on it and padding may need to be used to protect it. Shoes and socks that help conserve heat should be worn as much as possible. There are various creams that can be used to deal with chilblains to help stimulate the circulation and remove some of the waste products that build up. If these simple measures do not help, then advice from a podiatrist, especially if the lesion has broken down, on how to manage it is advised.

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