What's a Chilblain and How Do You Get One?

Poor circulation and cold feet can leave you dealing with a Chilblain! If you’ve recently traveled to a cooler climate, you may have unwittingly developed a Chilblain, which is a vascular condition that can develop when your skin is exposed to the cold.

Chilblains are usually felt in extremities like your feet, hands, ears or nose—they manifest as a burning or itching sensation, and the discomfort can get worse when you move into warmer territory. Sometimes, the affected area of skin can turn red and get swollen; very occasionally, blisters or sores may develop. 

Chilblains tend to develop in people with compromised circulation, meaning diabetics and smokers have a higher risk of developing this nasty condition.

For most people, the symptoms will usually resolve, without treatment, within a few days. Unfortunately, diabetics don’t have the luxury of allowing chilblains to resolve on their own, since, for them, any kind of foot sore can quickly become a medical emergency. If you’ve developed a chilblain, you should certainly consult with your podiatrist but, typically, a corticosteroid cream can help resolve a chilblain that has not caused your skin to crack.

If you’re worried about Chilblains, prevention is not that difficult. To keep this nasty problem from developing, avoid exposure to the cold by wearing appropriate protective gear. In particularly cold temperatures, placing cotton balls between your toes may help improve your circulation; avoiding tight footwear can also help keep blood flowing to your feet. Finally, after being exposed to the cold, try not to expose your skin to sudden warmth, allowing yourself to enjoy a gradual warming instead. Following these suggestions should keep you foot-loose and chilblain free!
Dr. Andrew Schneider
Dr. Andrew Schneider is a podiatrist and foot surgeon at Tanglewood Foot Specialists in Houston, TX.