What are Chilblains?

Chilblains, also known as pernio or perniosis, are small, itchy swellings on the skin that occur as a reaction to cold temperatures and poor circulation. They usually affect the hands, feet, nose, and ears in cold climates. Chilblains can be both an annoyance and a cause of concern, as they can indicate an underlying health condition.

Symptoms of Chilblains

The primary symptom of chilblains is an itching or burning sensation on the skin, usually in the feet, hands, nose, and ears. Other symptoms include:

  • Swelling
  • Red, purplish, or bluish patches on the skin
  • Painful and tender skin
  • Crusting and flaking of the skin
  • Blisters
  • Ulcerated sores

Causes of Chilblains

Chilblains are caused by exposure to cold temperatures and poor circulation. Cold temperatures cause the small blood vessels in the skin to narrow, cutting off the supply of warm blood. This can cause an inflammatory reaction in the skin, resulting in the swelling and itching that is characteristic of chilblains. Poor circulation can also contribute to chilblains.

Risk Factors for Chilblains

People who are at an increased risk of developing chilblains include those who:

  • Live in cold, humid climates
  • Spend a lot of time outdoors in cold temperatures
  • Have poor circulation
  • Have certain medical conditions, such as lupus, thyroid disease, and Reynaud’s phenomenon
  • Are obese

Diagnosis and Treatment of Chilblains

Chilblains can often be diagnosed based on a physical examination, but additional tests may be necessary to identify underlying medical conditions. Treatment for chilblains typically focuses on managing the symptoms and avoiding cold temperatures. This may include medications, exposure to warm temperatures, and protective clothing. For severe cases, surgical procedures may be necessary.