It's that time of year again, you know when it feels like the only thing that will warm you up is a hot shower. The mornings and nights are so cold it leaves our feet seeking the warmth of your uggboots, the electric blanket or a hot bath. With these freezing temperatures comes a skin condition that up until a few years ago, I had never seen clinically. I had only heard about them, like some old wives tale " back in my day deary....' What am I referring to? Chilblains.
What are Chilblains?
Chilblains are a condition of the skin. The issue arises from an abnormal response to cold. The small blood vessels, the capilliaries shrink to keep the warmth of the blood close to our bodies and not near the skin where the heat is lost. These leaves the surface of the skin with a reduced blood supply. Our natural inclination is then to heat the skin up really quickly because being cold is awful! But by rapidly heating your skin the blood flows in faster than the blood vessels can expand. This causes an increase on pressure and the capillaries rupture allowing the blood to leak into the surrounding tissues. Chilblains follow a progression that begins with pain and discomfort that is localised, often to the tips of the toes (or fingers). The area will be bright red, then turn a purple colour, and then blister and scab. They are painful and itchy.
Who is at risk?
Generally this condition impacts the aging population, but children can also be affected. Smoking will increase a person's risk due to constriction of the blood vessels, people with connective tissue disorders such a Lupus are also more often affected. Raynaud's syndrome can also predispose people to chilblains. As we age and the skin becomes thin and our blood supply to our feet decreases, people can suddenly develop chilblains having never had them before.
How do I prevent them?
keep your body at a constant temperature.
keep your house at a steady temperature
wear socks as opposed to stockings. Socks made from Possum wool or Merino woolwear closed in shoes with thick rubber soles.
wear slippers in the house that cover your feet completely like Archline slippers
.keeping your skin soft with regular creaming will also help to stop splitting
if they do feel cold, gentle warming is ok
there are a number of creams of the market that have natural ingredients that will help to make the feet feel warm such as Akileine Cold Feet Cream which we sell in the clinic.
let you skin get cold and then suddenly heat it
soak your feet in hot water.
put a hot water bottle on them
sit with your feet in front of the heater either
What do I do if I think I have them?
Firstly, get confirmation that you do in fact have a chilblain. Your practitioner will advise you on the right cream to use and discuss the lifestyle factors that may be leading to your chilblains. They will also assess you blood flow. Regular treatment is crucial to ensure the skin does not break down due to blistering. Overall the most important factor is prevention