Chilblains (CHILL-blayns) are the painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin that occur in response to sudden warming from cold temperatures. Also known as pernio, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling and blistering on extremities, such as on your toes, fingers, ears and nose.

Chilblains may get better on its own, especially as the weather gets warmer. Chilblains usually clear up within one to three weeks, though they may recur seasonally for years. Treatments typically consist of lotions and medication. While Chilblains don't usually result in permanent injury, they can lead to infection, which may cause severe damage if left untreated.

The best approach to chilblains is to avoid developing them by limiting your exposure to cold, dressing warmly and covering exposed skin.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of chilblains may include:

  • Small, itchy red areas on your skin, often on your feet or hands
  • Possible blistering
  • Swelling of your skin
  • Burning sensation on your skin
  • Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain
  • Possible ulceration

When to see a doctor

Some people with chilblains never need to see a doctor — they simply use lotions to help with the pain and itching. However, if the pain becomes too severe or the affected skin begins to look as if it might be infected, a doctor can help you treat it more effectively. Also, make sure to seek medical attention if your skin doesn't improve after a week or two.

If you have poor circulation or diabetes, see a doctor immediately after discovering chilblains to prevent possible complications.

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