Usually when you go outside in cold or chilly weather, the only bumps you’ll have to deal with are goose bumps. However, for some people (particularly those with poor circulation) cold exposure can also lead to much more problematic bumps on toes known as chilblains. A few hours after exposure, a big red bump will form and itchiness, swelling, and even burning sensations soon follow.
The reason chilblains form is simple science—cold things contract, while hot things expand. In cold (not necessarily freezing) temperatures, the narrow blood vessels in your toes tighten. When you go back inside, they expand. If you go from one extreme to the other too quickly, sometimes the vessels overextend themselves and leak blood into the surrounding tissues, which is what causes the swelling and discomfort.
The good news is that, although they can be painful, these bumps on toes usually heals on their own after a few weeks. The bad news is that you don’t have much choice other than waiting it out, though there are a few techniques can help you ease the discomfort and minimize the chances of infection. If the skin hasn’t broken, topical lotions, such as corticosteroid creams, are your best bet to reduce pain and swelling. Make sure the chilblain is cleaned regularly using an antiseptic and bandages, as this will reduce your odds of developing an infection. Don’t scratch, and as much as possible avoid exposure to temperature extremes—feet should stay warm, but don’t put them right up next to a heat source, either.
If chilblains become a chronic problem for you, or if the pain is intense, the skin has broken, or you have a potentially complicating condition such as diabetes, visit Family Foot and Ankle Center. Additional treatment may include cleaning and protecting any open wounds, or prescribing medications that lower blood pressure or improve blood flow to open up and relax blood vessels. Give us a call at (513) 728-4800 (Ohio) or (859) 282-1572 (Kentucky) or contact us online and set up an appointment today.