What causes chilblains?

Chilblains are the result ofan abnormal reaction to the cold.They are common in the UKbecause damp, cold weather is usual in the winter. Some people develop chilblains every winter that last for several months.

When the skin is cold, blood vessels near its surface get narrower.If the skin is then exposed to heat, the blood vessels become wider.

If this happens too quickly, blood vessels near the surface of the skin can't always handle the increased blood flow. This can cause blood toleak into the surrounding tissue, which may cause theswelling and itchiness associated with chilblains.

Some people are more at risk of chilblains than others. This includes people with:

  • poor circulation
  • a family history of chilblains
  • regular exposure to cold, damp or draughty conditions
  • a poor diet or low body weight
  • lupus a long-term condition that causes swelling in the body's tissues
  • Raynaud's phenomenon a common condition that affects the blood supply to certain parts of the body, usually the fingers and toes

People who smoke are more at risk of chilblains as nicotine constricts blood vessels.

Chilblains can also occur on areas of the feet that are exposed to pressure, such as a bunion or a toe that's squeezed by tight shoes.

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 21 Dec 2018