You generally won't need to see your doctor for chilblains. If you do visit your doctor, he or she will be able to diagnose your skin condition by looking at it and talking with you about any recent cold exposure. The exam might also include checking your circulation.
He or she may do further tests, such as a skin biopsy, to rule out other causes for your signs and symptoms.
The first line of treatment for chilblains generally includes measures to keep hands and feet warm and dry, such as keeping your indoor environment warm and dry, using gloves and socks, and changing damp gloves and socks when needed.
If your chilblains don't clear up with these home remedies, your doctor may recommend medication, including:
- Nifedipine (Procardia). This type of blood pressure medication treats chilblains by helping to open up blood vessels and improve circulation. Side effects may include flushing, nausea, dizziness and swelling in the hands or feet.
- A topical corticosteroid. Applying a corticosteroid cream to chilblains may help the lesions go away.
Lifestyle and home remedies
Chilblains usually clear up in one to three weeks after cold exposure. In the meantime, you can take steps to ease your signs and symptoms, including:
- Rewarming affected skin gently, without massaging, rubbing or applying direct heat
- Avoiding cold exposure whenever possible
- Keeping your affected skin dry and warm, but away from sources of heat
- Applying lotion to alleviate itching
- Making sure the affected skin is cleaned with an antiseptic and gently bandaged to prevent infection
- Avoiding scratching
- Quitting smoking, as smoking can constrict your blood vessels and slow wound healing
Preparing for your appointment
Most people with chilblains don't need to see a doctor. If you're in pain or suspect you might have an infection, see your primary care doctor. He or she may suggest treatment or refer you to a doctor who specializes in skin disorders (dermatologist) or circulatory disorders (cardiologist).
Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
Before your appointment make a list of:
- Symptoms you've noticed, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment
- Key personal information, including any major stresses, recent life changes or vacations to different climates
- All medications, vitamins and supplements you take, including the doses
- Questions to ask your doctor
For chilblains, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are there other possible causes?
- Do I need any tests?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- What treatments are available, and which do you recommend?
- What side effects can I expect from treatment?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach that you're suggesting?
- Do I need to restrict my activities in any way?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Do you have any brochures or other printed material I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Do your symptoms get worse in response to quick changes in temperature?
- Does anything seem to improve your symptoms?
- Have you ever had these symptoms before?
- Have you been diagnosed with Raynaud's disease?
What you can do in the meantime
Try to keep the affected area warm and clean.
Dec. 01, 2020