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Chilblains or winter toes

Many people get this winter burden. By the interaction of the cold, the skin starts to show in some places red swellings. These are normally harmless, but can be very itchy and painful. Women are more sensitive than men for this condition.The disorder occurs during cold and wet periods, so especially during the winter. Humidity is a major factor, but in combination with the cold air. The cold is better guided in a humid environment. This explains why the disorder in the bitterly cold but dry north practically does not exist.The winter cold makes the blood vessels constrict and provide a less blood flow. Therefore is more likely to show at far ends of the body e.g. the fingers and toes, but feet, legs, nose, eyes, chin and other areas can be affected by the disease. By less circulation, the body gets cold more blood gets supplied to warm up the body and can accumulate at the narrowed blood vessels. This results in tissue damage in the blood vessels which causes red spots and swelling. Not only the cold and humidity causes these problems even some medicines like beta blockers (for high blood pressure) may boost the occurrence.

The condition is thus actually creating (blue)red swellings, which are itchy and can be very painful. Normally, these are harmless and disappear after a few weeks, but sometimes one can experience blisters, which burst and can turn into ulcers (if not treated). Those who suffer from it once are often confronted with it for the following years, except when taking all appropriate precautions.Because most homes and workplaces currently are well heated during the winter the disease becomes less frequent. This condition affects younger people more than the elderly, but older people are facing worse (itching and pain) symptoms.

Prevention and Treatment

Chilblains you can prevent by protecting your hands adequately against cold (warm clothing, shoes and gloves). However you may not, wear too tight gloves or shoes, as they may be the cause of the disease (poor circulation). If it is already bothering you, particular salves maybe some relief, but there is still no real effective remedy. Massage can also relieve pain and itching, but you should proceed with caution because the skin is already very sensitive. Scratching is obviously out of the question and can cause sores. Also alternating between warm and cold water can be beneficial because it stimulates the blood circulation.

If the symptoms are too painful, or the disease spreads to other limbs or hands and feet or if you experience any without being exposed to the cold, it is best to consult a doctor who can prescribe painkillers or other medication.

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