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Disease: Chilblains Chilblains
Category: Dermatological diseases
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Disease Definition:

The painful inflammation of small blood vessels in the skin responding to sudden warming from cold temperatures is referred to as chilblains. Red patches, swelling, itching and blistering on extremities such as on the nose, ears, finger and toes may be caused by chilblains, also known as pernio.

Chilblains normally respond well to treatment, which usually contains lotions and medications; it usually clears up within 14 days. If chilblains is left untreated, it can cause severe damage, although it doesn't usually result in permanent injury.

Covering exposed skin, dressing warmly and limiting one's exposure to cold is the best way to avoid the condition.

Work Group:

Prepared by: Scientific Section

Symptoms, Causes


Here are the signs and symptoms of chilblains:

  • Swelling
  • Inflammation of the skin
  • Possible ulceration
  • Possible blistering
  • Burning sensation on the skin
  • Small, itchy red areas on the skin
  • Changes in skin color from red to dark blue, accompanied by pain

To alleviate the pain and itching, some people with chilblains use lotions, without seeing a doctor. However, a doctor may help the patient treat the condition in an effective way if the affected skin begins to look alarming or the pain becomes too severe. And if the skin becomes infected or if it doesn't improve after 14 days, medical attention should be sought.
To prevent further possible complications, one should see a doctor immediately after discovering chilblains if he/she has diabetes or poor circulation.


Chilblains usually occurs when the body reacts in an abnormal way to cold. It is not clear why it happens for certain people. this condition usually develops on the skin that is exposed to cold and is then warmed too quickly,  such as when someone warms their hands directly in front of fire or a heater. Resulting in a "bottleneck" effect and the leaking of blood into nearby tissues, small blood vessels under the skin may expand more quickly than nearby larger blood vessels can handle because of this cooling and rapid heating. And any exposure of skin to cold weather may be risky because chilblains is a reaction to cold.

Because the living conditions and clothing used in colder and drier countries are more protective against cold, chilblains is less likely to occur in these climates. Unusual pressure on the skin, such as a bunion on the foot or tight shoes may aggravate or cause chilblains.

Chilblains is likely to occur in people who are overly sensitive to changes in temperature or to those who have poor circulation. Though the reason is not clear, women are more likely to get chilblains.



If the skin blisters, chilblains may cause complications, in which case the patient may develop ulcers and infections. When suspecting infection, one should see the doctor because if left untreated, infections are potentially life-threatening in addition to being painful.


Generally, it is painless and simple to treat chilblains. Corticosteroid creams, which relieve the itching and swelling, can treat the earliest symptoms. There’s a moderately successful drug called nifedipine; it can help open up blood vessels, and is sometimes used to treat the cause of chilblains. Specialists are still trying to find alternatives for this drug. If the patient’s skin has broken, the wounds should be protected and cleaned to prevent infection.


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