Protecting Your Feet

What Are Those Small, Red, Swollen Patches On Your Feet After Spending Time In The Cold?

Have you come inside after spending time out in the cold winter weather and found that you have some red, swollen patches on your feet? These patches may seem most prominent in areas where your toes rub together or where your feet rub against your shoe. They're probably a bit sore, and they might itch. Chances are, you're dealing with something known as chilblains. They're not overly dangerous, but you do need to address them properly in order to prevent infections from developing. Here's a closer look at why they develop and what you should do about them.

What causes chilblains?

Some people are prone to chilblains, while others are not. They're a reaction of your skin to re-warming after exposure to cold.  When your skin warms up, some blood vessels underneath the skin expand more quickly than the other larger blood vessels that they feed into. As a result, the liquid in the smaller vessels leeches out into the surrounding tissues. This leads to the redness, itching, burning, and swelling that you experience with chilblains.

Chilblains are more likely to develop when

  • You wear shoes that are too tight
  • You have bunions or other foot conditions that cause your feet to rub against your shoes
  • You have poor circulation in your feet

What should you do about chilblains?

Most patients do not need to see their doctor for chilblains. However, if you have diabetes, you should contact your podiatrist immediately about this condition, since you're at a much higher risk of developing an infection.

If you're not a diabetic, start treating your chilblains at home by massaging your feet with a gentle moisturizer. This will help get the blood flowing through your feet properly, which should help alleviate the swelling and redness. You can also soak your feet in a warm Epsom salts bath. Just stir a handful of Epsom salts into a tub of warm water and immerse your feet for a few minutes. The Epsom salts will help soothe the sore tissue while also preventing infections.

In most cases, your chilblains should disappear within a few days. If they don't get better, or if you develop symptoms of an infection such as excessive heat in your feet or blisters in the irritated areas, contact your podiatrist. He or she may prescribe a corticosteroid cream to help speed healing and an antibiotic to fight the infection.

For more information, contact professionals like Klein Stanley Jay DPM