Diagnosis

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.

Treatment

For adults whose chilblains don't clear up with home remedies, treatment may include prescription drugs:

  • Topical corticosteroid. A corticosteroid such as triamcinolone 0.1 percent cream is applied to the affected area.
  • Blood pressure medicine. A blood pressure lowering drug called nifedipine (Procardia). It can help open up blood vessels.

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

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.

Aug. 17, 2017
References
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  4. Winter weather frequently asked questions. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. http://www.bt.cdc.gov/disasters/winter/faq.asp#frostbite. Accessed Oct. 14, 2015.
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  7. Prakask S, et al. Idiopathic chilblains. The American Journal of Medicine. 2009;122:1152.
  8. Tintinalli JE, et al. Frostbite and other localized cold injuries. Tintinalli's Emergency Medicine: A Comprehensive Study Guide. 7th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2011.
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  10. Chilblains. Society of Chiropodists and Podiatrists. http://www.scpod.org/foot-health/common-foot-problems/chilblains/. Accessed Oct. 15, 2015.