If the cold weather this winter is causing you itchy feet and there are small, red swellings around your toes which often become quite painful, then you may be suffering from a common condition called chilblains. These can occur on your hands and face as well as your feet and often affect those who work outdoors during the winter as well as elderly people or diabetics who are more susceptible to the cold because of poor circulation.
What are Chilblains?
When you suffer from chilblains you’ll soon notice because your hands or feet will start burning or itching, a feeling that intensifies when you step into a warm room from the cold outside. You’ll also see a redness to the skin and in more extreme cases find the skin cracking and sores developing. This can be particularly painful on areas such as the feet.
When it gets cold, the small blood vessels in your feet and hands constrict but when you suddenly move into a warm area a quick expansion occurs, often causing pain or itching. People with poor circulation are likely to suffer more than others but you may well see the effects when you simply run your hands under a hot tap once you have been out in the cold.
Causes of chilblains can come from rapid changes in temperature but also from over exposure to damp environments. There may also be dietary influences and changes in your hormonal balance that mean you could be more prone than other people.
How to Prevent Chilblains
People with a tendency to chilblains must keep their hands and feet warm to reduce the risk of chilblains. Warming of the extremities must be achieved in a gradual manner and not abruptly to prevent permanent damage. Other preventative measures may include:
- Avoid nicotine products such as cigarettes as they constrict the blood vessels, so smokers must stop smoking
- Home and workplace should be heated in winter
- Warm clothing should include gloves, thick woollen socks and comfortable protective footwear
- Medicines that constrict blood vessels should be minimised, including caffeine, decongestants
- Ointments such as Hirudoid cream can aid by increasing blood flow to the affected area, minimise pain and inflammation
- Vigorous indoor exercise keeps the body warm.
Your pharmacist may recommend an over-the-counter solution for less troublesome cases but consulting your doctor or seeing a qualified podiatrist who knows how best to manage the condition is often the best solution.
If you are elderly and suffer from poor circulation this could involve having regular checks during the cold winter months to make sure your feet are in good condition.
As always, if you have any questions, you can call us on 9542 3491. Or if you are suffering from this condition, come in and see us at our clinic!