Common Foot Problems – Chilblains

Although the weather has been fairly mild, the forecast, as you would expect for this time of year, is for it to get colder. With this in mind we thought we could remind you about this common, often very painful, complaint and things you can do at home to relieve the symptoms.

Chilblains, whilst being uncomfortable rarely cause any permanent damage. They present themselves as small red or purple bumps on the toes (and other extremities), they can be painful and itchy. Sometimes they break open and become ulcers which can lead to infection.

Chilblains are caused by sudden drops in temperature causing the small capillaries to constrict and prevent blood flow getting to the tips of the toes. Problems often occur when feet are warmed too quickly after being chilled.

Individuals most likely to be affected include:

  • The young or elderly
  • Those with poor circulation
  • People working in cold environments
  • Those that are not very active
  • Individuals who have anaemia


It is important not to scratch them even though they may be itchy. Scratching will increase the risk of the chilblains breaking open and becoming infected.

Unsurprisingly the best way of avoiding this condition in the first place is to keep the toes, feet and legs warm and if they do become chilled, warm them gradually. This can be done by burying your feet in a bean bag which will gradually warm the feet. it feels really nice too.

Try to avoid wearing anything that constricts the feet, such as tight shoes or even tight hosiery, that can reduce the blood supply. Good quality shoes/hosiery rather than quantity is the better approach.

Lotions such as witch hazel and calamine can be soothing and creams like lanolin can help insulate the feet at night.

If the chilblains have broken causing a wound, antiseptic ointment should be used together with a sterile dressing. If you have a condition such as diabetes you may be more at risk of infection. If in doubt see your GP or call us to book an appointment with one of our podiatrist.

This is the fifth in our series about common foot problems. Our we aim is to provide you with information about these conditions plus hints and tips (where possible) on how to avoid and treat them.

If you have any concerns about your feet then please contact us to arrange an appointment with one of our podiatrists.