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Chilblains and Raynaud’s

Both of these conditions can cause changes in colour and can damage the skin of the feet but they are related to underlying circulatory issues.

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Chilblains

What is a Chilblain?

Chilblains (erythema pernio) are small, itchy, red lesions that appear on the skin, usually on the end of a toe. They can become purple/blue and sometimes they may blister or breakdown into a small ulcer.

They are caused by the closing of the small blood vessels in the feet in response to cold when they do not respond quickly enough when the feet are warmed again. They can affect anyone but can also be linked to circulatory problems.

How can I help myself?

Self treatment involves trying to prevent the feet getting too cold, but also avoid rewarming them too quickly or extremely as this can cause inflammation and pain. Trying to maintain an even temperature is best using appropriate clothing and keeping properties warm.

Although chilblains are uncomfortable, they do not usually cause any permanent damage and should heal. If exposure to the cold is avoided. A range of creams and lotions can be bought from a pharmacy or prescribed by a GP. These can act to “warm” the skin they are applied to. You must discuss the use of these creams with a pharmacist or GP before use.

If you smoke, then you should try and stop as smoking can make chilblains worse.

Medication is sometimes used in people who have recurring chilblains. A drug called Nifedipine can dilate (open wide) the small blood vessels and may help to prevent chilblains.

When to see a Podiatrist?

A Podiatrist will be able to help with diagnosis and treatment if the skin is split or ulcerated. They may be able to advise on footwear, creams and possibly insulating insoles too, and they will be able to check your circulation.

Chilblains

Raynaud’s Phenomenon

What is Raynaud’s Phenomenon?

Raynaud’s phenomenon affects the circulation to your toes and fingers and can be caused by the cold but also has been linked to anxiety and stress. It can be painful and cause numbness, tingling and changes in colour. Usually the tips of the toes and fingers go white or red.

How can I help myself?

Self care involves keeping warm and avoiding extremes of temperature. As with chilblains applying heat to the area can be very painful and is not sensible, so it is better to keep a more even temperature as much s possible using footwear, socks, and maintaining a good temperature in your home and work if possible.

When to see a Podiatrist?

It is worth seeking medical advice if you suffer from Raynaud’s, particularly if symptoms are getting worse or if they only impact one side of the body. A Podiatrist can check your circulation and advise on exercises, footwear and thermal insoles too. If there are any concerns about underlying issues with circulation, your Podiatrist may advise that you see your GP too.