View Full Version : Chilblains - anybody know what they are?

Dec. 21, 2008, 02:13 PM
Forty years ago in England I got chilblains. They are the bane of my winter existence.
I'm not looking for a cure or sympathy, just moaning.

Nobody who lives in a centrally heated house knows what they are. In England, I'd come home in the winter wearing tight dress heels and by the time I got home through the slush I'd be frozen. Into an unheated house, put my poor feet infront ot a teeny coal fire to warm them up. Somewhat like frostbite, I guess, they warmed up too fast and the circulation was damaged. Ever since then, when it is below zero, my toes get red and swollen and feel like an uncomfortable cross between itchy and burning. My husband does most of the barn chores for me, for which I am terribly grateful. I'll have to be nice to him for the whole year...

Dec. 21, 2008, 02:19 PM
Ask your Dr.:;)



Dec. 21, 2008, 07:07 PM
I've had mild chilblains a couple of times - fingers and/or toes swelled up so they didn't bend right and itched like crazy. I think a lot of people who work outside in winter get chilblains without realizing it; they think it's arthritis or an allergy or something. My grandmother used to tell me stories of getting them when she was a girl. She and her sister would go sledding, make snow forts, and do all the things kids do in the snow. Then they'd come inside and warm their feet by sticking them in the oven. :eek: This isn't as weird as it sounds, as most families back then still heated with wood or coal stoves. The family would gravitate to the stove to keep warm anyway, so propping open the oven door and resting your feet on it was a pretty natural thing for a bratty kid to do. Anyhow, my grandmother's advice, distilled from much painful experience, was to dress warmly when playing outside and to let my feet warm up gradually if I did get them cold.

Dec. 21, 2008, 07:22 PM
I can be in the chilblain clique :) I had them growing up, (even with central heating!!) but haven’t had them since I arrived here.

I think – could be wrong – it has something to do with the amount of moisture in the air.

Chilblain free for 15 years :cool:

Dec. 21, 2008, 09:19 PM
Thanks - misery loves company. I think it has to do with clammy feet. Now I am serious about my Smartwool socks.

Dec. 21, 2008, 09:31 PM
When you feel that your extremities (i.e. your toes and fingers) are getting irregularly cold and itchy, you might want to start to think whether or not you have acquired chilblains (commonly misspelled as chillblains) or otherwise known as perniosis. Poor circulation and an allergic response to the cold are usual causes of chilblains. Chilblains are itchy red and/or purple swells that appear on your toes and fingers. They are often painful and extremely itchy. Be careful not to scratch them though, for the condition may get worse. If you lack adequate hours of sleep or suffer from an imbalanced diet, you may also be a candidate for chilblains.
Once you have been submerged in cold temperatures for an extended amount of time, people may become vulnerable to this type of disease. Several hours after exposure, these small swells may appear. These are further aggravated by continuous exposure to the sun and because of these extreme temperature experiences, small arteries constrict and veins in your skin begin to swell because of this buildup of pressure. Sudden re-warming produces blood leakage into various tissues and thus swelling of the skin becomes a final, and a painful byproduct of the entire process.
This disease, however, is not usual in more extremely cold countries. As a matter of fact, chilblains occur mostly where it is temperate and the sudden cold is an affront to your body. People living in extremely cold places develop a natural protection against these cold temperatures. Those people who tend to live in normal temperatures are the ones who get chilblains when cold suddenly hits them and their bodies have little or no time to defend itself.
Chilblain also affect people who have very little personal physical exercise. More often than not, poor circulation of blood occurs when the body experiences very mild activity. It is in this state of dormancy that the blood no longer flows as smoothly as it should and therefore you become prone to chilblains.
If you believe that you have contracted. Chilblains, please be notified that you should not apply extreme heat or cold to the affected area. Keep the affected part in a moderate temperature and contact your local physician immediately. Chilblains are a localized form of vasculitis but have no permanent and severe effect and are very easily treated. Just be reminded that you should not scratch it in any way possible. Although it is very itchy, scratching it can make it worse.

Dec. 21, 2008, 10:28 PM
I've had them for 30+ years. When I first had them I had 3 podiatrists not have a clue as to what it was (since it was on my toes, I went to podiatrists). It was a dermatologist that finally diagnosed what they were after 5 years of no one knowing.

His suggestion was to keep my feet warm in cold weather. It did get worse as I got older. Let's face it, having horses in the winter, with all the outdoor activities, it is hard to keep warm. My last winter in New England, I wore battery heated socks inside expedition weight winter boots, and I would still occasionally have a flare up. Even here in Florida, when we have the winter nightime freezes, I have to wear my winter wool socks, and still get a bump or two from time to time.

Dec. 21, 2008, 11:00 PM
That's funny that three different podiatrists cold not diagnose your chilblains. Obviously they never practiced in England! Like I said, nobody ever knows what I'm talking about here where everywhere is centrally heated. I never thought to look them up in Wikepedia - that thing can cover every topic.

Dec. 21, 2008, 11:23 PM
That's funny that three different podiatrists cold not diagnose your chilblains. Obviously they never practiced in England! Like I said, nobody ever knows what I'm talking about here where everywhere is centrally heated. I never thought to look them up in Wikepedia - that thing can cover every topic.

Well, I'm pretty sure that all three were quacks. The first one said he had no clue about the purple bumps on my toes, but that I had hyperextended toes and that I should have the tendons cut - I never bothered to call that one back. One of the others just said he had no clue, and the third did correctly diagnose a bunion (near my baby toe, which is uncommon) but his suggested "cure" was to break the bone in my foot, put a pin in it and scrape down the end of the bone, it would have been a long recovery period. All I did was start to pad the bunion and wear looser shoes, and it has rarely bothered me after that.

I recently tried something for the chilblain flareups, I put Sore-No-More on them and it seems to help.

Dec. 21, 2008, 11:50 PM
I just started having this problem last year. One day I was out feeding at the barn, it was not even very cold, and all of a sudden my fingers and toes felt like they were going to fall off. I ended up getting blisters on my toes. The doctor didn't mention chilblains, but said it was Raynaud's Syndrome. Now my toes even get numb in the freezer department of the grocery store in the summer when I am wearing sandals. I have to make sure to always have gloves on at the barn once fall arrives. During winter even gloves don't do the trick. I actually wear UGGS cleaning stalls because they are the only boots to keep my toes warm. Now I know that the blisters are called chilblains! You learn something new everyday!

Dec. 22, 2008, 12:34 AM
My grandfather had a condition called Buerger's disease, and he actually had to have the tip of his ring finger amputated because it died due to lack of circulation and gangrene. Buergers patients must never smoke, as this is a major factor in the problem.


So, while I don't think I have Buerger's, I might have some sort of circulatory issue that causes the chilblains, that might be similar. Or it might have been due to the mild case of frostbite that I had in high school after a long session of ice skating one day - and that was a painful thing.

He used to start to have cold hands and feet in early fall. He did have a dairy and vegetable farm, but he had to sell it since the winter farm work was too hard for him.

Dec. 22, 2008, 02:24 AM
I thought I knew what they are but I think I was mistaken.

My mother and one of my sisters get deep, painful cracks in the skin at the ends of their fingers (and elsewhere, I think, like maybe on knuckles or between fingers). These are like nothing I've ever seen... and SOOOO painful. Somehow I thought they were chilblains. I wonder if there is a name for the cracked fingertips that I'm confusing with chilblains?

The turning purple and itching part does not sound familiar.

Dec. 22, 2008, 10:28 AM
For the itching/burning you might want to see your doctor and get an Rx for a steroid cream. Until then here's some info that might help..


Dec. 22, 2008, 12:07 PM
It's funny you should mention this, I was just thinking the other day how I hadn't heard them mentioned for years.

When we were kids (in England) and came in from playing in the cold, Mum and Gran would never let us sit too close to the heater to warm up..."You'll get chilblains"!

We never did, and I never actually saw anyone who did, I kind of thought they were like the bogey man!

Dec. 22, 2008, 12:22 PM
I think I do!!!!
... and never knew what it was until now, but those photos look very similar to what might toes looked like last week!!!
Very painful too!!

I also have Raynaud's:

Yes, my fingers will actually look just like the ones in the photos. Totally white! Very painful when the re-warm also!