How to Recognize and Treat Chilblains

With winter upon us, and our recent cold weather snap, we are seeing patients with a higher risk of chilblains.


A chilblain is a small, red swelling on the skin, which can be very itchy and gradually becomes very painful. Chilblains usually occur on the smaller toes but can occur on the finger, face, or nose. They occur due to an abnormal reaction of the body to cold. A chilblain may also occur on a pressure bearing area such as a bunion.

Chilblian Doctors East Coast Foot and Ankle


  • A chilblain will usually appear as a red, swollen lesion on the tip of a toe or finger.
  • They can dry out leaving cracks in the skin, which expose the skin to infection.


  • The lesion becomes increasingly painful.
  • The lesion becomes very itchy.
  • Patients may suffer from a burning sensation on their toes or feet.
  • In some cases the surface of the skin may break and an infection may develop.


  • Abnormal reaction to cold.
  • Seen with patients who suffer from Raynaud’s Syndrome.
  • Elderly people with poor circulation are at a greater risk.
  • Those exposed to prolonged cold, moist conditions.
  • If the skin is chilled and then followed by rapid warming such as a gas fire.
  • The sudden onset of very cold water on the skin.
  • Other contributing factors include dietary, hormonal imbalance, and anemia.

What you can do:

  • Keep legs and body warm, especially if you have poor circulation.
  • Leg warmers and thick woolen socks (Smartwool socks) may be of benefit.

Other treatment options

  • Prescription Vasodilators


Podiatrist Dr. Lee Firestone Surgeon Medication and Treatments

Dr. Lee Firestone operates two offices for your convenience– Washington, DC (K Street) and Chevy Chase, MD.

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