Chilblains Swelling Toes

Of all the infections that affect the feet, chilblains is generally found in people who live in cold countries. It is thought that they are directly attributed to poor circulation. Chilblains affects the toes and the feet and results in them becoming swollen, itchy and red.

There are different factors that can cause chilblains:

  • Bone marrow or connective tissue disorders
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Poor nutrition

When your feet are exposed to cold, the capillary beds in the skin get damaged which is the cause of the itching, inflammation and redness. Burning sensations on the feet that begin to turn red and end up purple is a common symptom of chilblains. It is also possible for the skin to break and an infection to develop. Although chilblains are said to be idiopathic in origin, they could be a manifestation of a medical condition that is more serious and investigating and treating them quickly is essential.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. QUESTION:
    Why are my toes itching and swelling?
    About a week ago, I began to notice the toe next to my pinkie toe on my right foot had a red spot and was swelling and extremely itchy. As time went on my other toes started to develop red patches and pretty soon they were all swollen and itchy (including on my other foot). I thought it might be chilblains, but I'm in California and I haven't really been exposed to any serious temperature swings. Does anyone have any idea what this might be?

    • ANSWER:
      Swelling on extremities is never good. See a doctor.

  2. QUESTION:
    What is the strange swelling in my fingers and toes?
    I have Raynaud's syndrome (bad circulation) and have had chilblains verging on frost bite in the past.
    So I'm used to red, swollen, stiff fingers and toes...even scaring and some tissue damage.
    However, this year, I have not been out in the cold and yet, I've had what appears to be chilblains or some sort of irritation/tissue damage. Except this time, it's different.
    It's like red little spots that are sore/sensitive & swollen on my finger, mostly on the intermediate phalanges area. I guess I also, somehow got chilblains on some of my toes again...they really scared my skin this time, which at one point, peeled off as though it had been burnt.
    The little areas that swell on my fingers seem to come out of nowhere...I dunno what to think of it?
    Feels hot too.
    Could it be something else than chilblains or Raynaud's?

    • ANSWER:
      I think you should see your doc about it. Could be arthritis or something else.

  3. QUESTION:
    does anybody know how to get rid of chilblains?
    my 7 year old brother has chilblains on his toes does anybody know of any lotions to take away the swelling?thanks

    • ANSWER:
      Heat and decrease dampness.
      People in warm dry places don't get chillblains

  4. QUESTION:
    Does anyone here know how to deal with chilblains?
    It's the first time i've ever had it, but i'm pretty sure that's what it is. The pain, swelling, and itching is getting really bad with each passing day. I only seem to have it on my the toes on my left foot. I keep my feet clean and put lotion on and keep covered with socks, but its not getting better. Any tips or advice?

    • ANSWER:
      Maybe the website below could help? Also, have you tried asking a doctor or a chemist?

  5. QUESTION:
    help i have chilblains and i thought i had atheletes foot or fungus?
    How do i treat it because it comes back everytime when it is healed? It appears on my fingers and toes and when it is cold. It's swollen and red and really itchy. My toes had developed blisters and i treat it with AHA lotion on and it helps shed the dead skin away. My toes look red still but it healed. Any help will be appreciated. Thanks.

    • ANSWER:
      Try to keep the areas warm to prevent recurrence.
      The cause of chilblains isn't known. But tests in some people with chilblains may reveal abnormal proteins that tend to sludge in cold temperatures.
      In chilblains, it's important to slowly rewarm the skin after cold exposure. Treatment may also include:
      * Corticosteroid creams to relieve itching and swelling
      * Medications to improve circulation
      * Keeping any sores clean and protected with sterile dressings
      An episode of chilblains usually clears up within seven to 14 days. To prevent chilblains, avoid or limit your exposure to cold, such as by dressing warmly and covering your head and all exposed skin when you go outside in cold weather.
      Best wishes to you. Keep warm!

  6. QUESTION:
    How do you get rid of chilblains?
    oow they hurt like crap..
    my feet/toes are slightly swollen and are red and itchy..
    what do i doo..!!

    • ANSWER:
      http://www.epodiatry.com/chilblains.htm

      http://www.bestincosmetics.com/skin-disorders/chilblains.htm

  7. QUESTION:
    ive had chilblains for over 5 months?
    im 21 and last winter, i wore running shoes ( leather and suede ) to go out because i couldnt find boots i liked, in the middle of winter, i got chilblains ( google it ) and the swelling caused by it has been there for well over months. ive googled and stuff but cannot find an explanation, is this normal at all? i havent used any form of medicine to treat my toes, the itching has gone by itself but the swelling is still...annoying.

    I NEED HELPS @_@

    • ANSWER:
      Chilblains are often idiopathic in origin but can be manifestations of serious medical conditions that need to be investigated.
      A history of chilblains is suggestive of a connective tissue disease.
      Keep area warm.
      Medication "Nifedipine" may be used in more severe or recurrent cases. Its vasodilation helps reduce pain, facilitate healing and prevent recurrences.
      Or even,"Diltiazem", a newer calcium channel blocker, may also be used.
      I think you really warrant a Doctor visit and medical treatment to resolve your pain and swelling to heal properly as its been too long on your own. Take care hun.

  8. QUESTION:
    Need help diagnosing...vasculitis or chilblains?
    I have been to the doc and had him stumped! Two weeks ago my second toe swelled up, skin shiny and dark red, hot to the touch. It went through a series of changes over the last two weeks...painful, hot, itchy, etc. One week ago several red spots occured on the bottom of three of my toes (including the swollen one). They are all fading, but still a mystery. The doc tested me for a plethera of things and all came back negative. In our family we have a history of Lupus, etc. I am positive for the Epstein-Barr Virus...I am tired, no energy, aching joints...

    I have been reading on the net about chilblains and vasculitis. Does anyone have any info. I can go off of or suggestions about how to find some answers?

    • ANSWER:
      http://www.dermnet.com/moduleIndex.cfm?moduleID=22

      this one has pics on it

  9. QUESTION:
    Why are my pinky toes swollen?
    So i was looking at my feet about four days ago and i relized my left pinky toes was really swollen. There was no pain and i couldn't figure out what was causing it to swell. A few days later i felt like i had blisters on all the bottoms of my toes but none of them were swollen or showed signs of blistering. Now though my right pinky is swollen! I'm wondering what the heck is going on! I researched it and i found something that sounded similar it's called chilblains. I'm not completely sure though. Also on my right pinky it looks like there's a tiny bit mark from a spider or something but if it's a spider why would all my other toes on both feet be reacting too. Any answers? Sorry if this is confusing! Thanks!

    • ANSWER:
      did you get a bug bite? or a sting? maybe you did when you where sleeping a bug bit you, but to know for sure look at your toe and look for a little tiny red dot in the middle of all the redness. try soaking it in some hot epson salt water. if it gets to bad go see a doctor. hey.....maybe you have pink toe! like pink eye but on your toe lol. good luck. :) also put neosporin cream on it.

  10. QUESTION:
    Which autoimmune disease can cause Chilblains?
    I have had swelling on my toes and a rash on my feet, around my eyes. I had an MRI of my foot and it was determined I have Chilblains. Mine is not caused by cold but rather a problem with my tissues. My doctor said I will need to be treated by a rheumatology doctor. I will not be able to see the rheumatologist for about 4 months but am going to my other doctor to have more blood test and discuss further. I am worried about what this could be. The only thing my doctor has said over the phone is that it is a systemic illness.

    Thanks.

    • ANSWER:
      A previous Best ANSWER =

      Yes, that is Raynaud's. Many people with Raynaud's are prone to chilblains! You can use ointment on the chilblain sores, but you'll always have to try harder than everyone else to keep warm in the winter! Raynaud's can be treated but most people choose not to, as they'd rather not take medication for something that's not too serious. I have Reynaud's too and I get teased for my purple hands but I don't take medicine, I mostly just wear gloves most of the time.
      Source(s):
      http://www.raynauds.org.uk/potioncms/vie...

  11. QUESTION:
    Possible Chilblains. Help?
    A few of my toes are swollen and red. They get really itchy and hurt a lot. My mum said it's chilblains and that it's because I wear my tights too tight and for too long. She said I should try to keep my feet cool and dry, is this right? and is this chilblains?

    Thanks x

    • ANSWER:
      Chillblains are not caused by wearing tights.

      They can develop when feet get too cold. So wearing tights and keeping your feet warm is a good thing.

      Don't scratch them! It makes them worse. You can get creams from the chemist or doctors to stop with the itching.

      Make sure you exercise regularly and try not to go from one temperature extreme to another. Like.. when you're feet are cold from being outside... don't put them near a radiator. etc etc

  12. QUESTION:
    Chilblains?
    OK, these are really bugging me; I have very bad circulation, and as such am naturally prone to chilblains. I've had them before, but not as bad as this! I got this 'batch' in late September, and they still haven't gone away. My toes are swollen and purple and itchy, and it's very painful.
    Also, I have started developing hard lumps on the knuckles of my index fingers which feel like hard skin but don't itch at all, could this be related?

    • ANSWER:
      I HAVE CHILBLIANS!!! NOW!!!
      i went to my dermatologist and she gave me a medicine thats called CLOBETASOL PROPIONATE its a prescription that is an ointment and its helping me alot!! i get ALOT of chilblains too!!!!

      GO SEE UR DERMATOLOGIST IMMEDIATLY!!!!

  13. QUESTION:
    What could possibly be wrong with my toes?
    On both feet, several of my toes are swollen and red. Blanching occurs when they are pressed upon with even the lightest pressure. At certain times (especially when walking from the cold into a warm room), the afflicted toes begin to itch or burn. The skin is also slightly waxy. My parents (both people in the medical profession with some 40 years between the two) believe it is the first signs of frostbite, but the affected toes feel notably warm. And, when they are rubbed or placed in warm water, there is no "severe pain" that I've read about when it comes to thawing frostbitten toes. It actually seems to relieve the itching.

    Any thoughts? I was thinking chilblains, but I'm not a doctor.

    • ANSWER:

  14. QUESTION:
    Help! I suffer with unbroken Chilblains?
    I have been suffering from very bad unbroken chilblains on both feet. My toes get so bad that they swell and become very very itchy and i have a burning sensation. They are usually red to start with but may become purple. I have used Chilblain cream and even the old remedy of putting my foot in my own pee which helps but i can't seem to get rid of it altogether. I keep my feet warm and dry and when out in cold weather i where 2 pairs of socks and big boots but feet still cold i know i have poor Circulation in my feet. Is there anything i can do that i am not doing? All advise helpful. Thankyou ( ps i'm only 28)

    • ANSWER:
      There are a number of things that can help with circulation - perhaps the best one would be a herb called Ginkgo biloba - but it might help to see an experienced herbalist or nutritionist who would be able to advise you on an individual basis.

      Creams and lotions may help the symptoms, and speed up local healing, but you need to take something internally to improve the circulation in general and prevent them developing in the first place. Let me know if it helps.

      Your Online Consultant
      MB BCh Dip.Phyt. DIHom

  15. QUESTION:
    bad blood circulation - cold purple hands / feet?
    I really don't know what's wrong with my blood circulation! :( I've always had this problem. It's my hands & feet. My feet are always white/purple as well as really cold, and my toes are purple, and sometimes I do get chilblains, where my toes swell up etc. My hands are worse. They tend to go cold a lot, either turn bright red and hot(and can see veins stick out more) or deep purple and cold. When they go purple I also notice patch's of orange and white. This only happens when my hands are down by my side, and its only like 10 seconds after putting my hands down by my side they change colour. My GP doesn't have much to say really :( he said I have a 'hyper reactive circulation', or something like that? He also said there's nothing I can do about it. He said it 'might' be raynaud's disease. Still no help or cure apparently =/ When I walk the dog or something I always look down and can see brightly couloured purple/redy/orangey hands... I just wanna chop them off to be honest. Also, there's been a couple of happenings. I've woken up in the morning or the middle of the night in real bad pain in the tips of 3 of my fingers, the left side of my nose, and my whole left arm. My fingers and nose were really painful, felt like they were seriously bruised or something, these lasted for about 2-3 days! My arm was just DEAD for about 10 minutes, couldn't move it in the slightest, and when I woke up that night I wasn't lieing on it.

    can someone PLEASE help me

    • ANSWER:
      You have Raynaud'disease,ask me how do i know,it run in our family

  16. QUESTION:
    do chilblains have to be shiny?
    my little toe and middle toe on the other foot are quite itchy, a little red and swollen/sore around the knuckle/joint. the internet makes it seem like they are chilblains, since it's cold out and my feet tend to have poor circulation, but all the pictures i've seen portray them as rather shiny. mine aren't shiny, but i do have dry feet. and what can i do to relieve the itching/soreness? how long do they last?

    also, if anyone has an idea of what else they could be..... thanks!

    • ANSWER:
      No they don't have to be shiny. There can even be blisters. To prevent chilblains, keep warm and dry. Sweaty feet can provide the moisture that worsens the cold exposure. It probably takes prescription medications like calcium channel blockers to treat chilblains once it occurs. You may also need some labs to rule out associated underlying autoimmune conditions.

      If instead, you have athlete's foot, dryness and scale of the bottom of the foot, moistness and peeling of the space between toes, redness and scale on the sides of the foot, then over the counter antifungal cream can be helpful. Athlete's foot is common, chilblains is not.

  17. QUESTION:
    i have extreme chilblains?
    My toes are swollen and itchy they have started to peel. I have these weird red spots on them they look like blood but im not sure, I do not scratch them. How can i get them to go away there driving me crazy. Please help!.

    • ANSWER:
      I would seek out a podiatrist or your primary doctor.

      Below is an excellent web site to understand chilblains.

  18. QUESTION:
    chilblains my feet keep geting hot and red itchy?
    like what it says, for the past 3 nights now my feet have been itching badly that they get really red, swollen and the skin become peeling off. Ive put sudocream on and it goes for a while and then it comes back.
    however it could be because my feet are hot under the covers so that doesn't help.
    but this hasn't happened before... well for a long time that is so cant member when i last had chilblains.
    also it not on every toes just 3rd and 4th toes on both feet.
    mum said soaking them in pee helps....
    plz help me!

    • ANSWER:
      I often have this problem. I work in a freezer during the day and my feet get extremely cold to the point of numbness. When I get home and they warm up, they get extremely itchy and swollen. Have you exposed your feet to extreme cold? This is most likely the cause.

      Keep your feet warm during the day and try to avoid the cold if possible. Wear thick socks and good, protective shoes when you go out. There are also foot warmer packets that you can put inside your shoes if you know you will be in the cold for a long period of time.

      Eventually it will go away, as long as you are not continuing to expose your feet to the cold. The best solution is prevention. Keep your feet warm at all times and if you have someone who would be willing to massage them gently, this also helps.

  19. QUESTION:
    What do I have on my toes?
    it's winter and it's strangely very cold, colder than it usually is. I have blisters and red bumps on my toes. and some of them are swollen. and red dots under my toes. and sometimes it itches uncontrollably. and when it doesn't itch, it hurts. feels like as if I have bruises all over them although I don't. it turns red when it itches and when it's not, it's blueish or purplish.

    it was very cold this morning but I didn't wear any sock or anything so my feet were freezing and then it started to itch. it was veeery itchy I couldn't stand it. I thought that I have Ringworm so I wear some Tolnaftate but it's not improving after a week. so I researched some more to the internet and I think I might have Chilblains because the picture in the articles look like the ones on my feet (don't click at this link if you will feel sick when you see it) http://www.pain.com/default/assets/Image/Chilblain.jpg so is it really chilblains? if you think it is, do you know any remedies that will help stop the itch or to heal it? Thank you very much.
    O_o yes, I'm going to see a doctor tomorrow morning but meanwhile in case the itch is coming back. and please tell me if it is contagious or not, if you know it.

    • ANSWER:
      It really does sound like chilblains. It is caused by a reaction to the cold.
      http://www.best-home-remedies.com/skin_disorders/chilblains.htm

      Lifestyle and home remedies
      By Mayo Clinic staff

      Chilblains usually clears up after 14 days. Keep the affected skin away from sources of heat, but make sure to keep it warm and comfortable. You can use lotions to alleviate the itching and swelling. Rubbing the topical emollient lanolin into your feet will help retain body heat. If your skin is broken, make sure to clean it and dress it appropriately with an antiseptic to prevent infection.

      Here is a website about frostbite. But, I don't think it's that.
      http://emedicine.medscape.com/article/1089724-overview

      Make sure not to scratch any affected skin. If possible, I would see a doctor.

  20. QUESTION:
    How to cure chilblain ?
    My toes suffered from chilblain each cold winter. They are now red, swollen and itching. I don't know what to do with them anymore. If I scratch them too much it will cause pain. Any secret recipe to cure them ? I tried to soak them in hot and salty water but only stop them itching for a while then later on the itchiness will be back.
    Any suggestion will be appreciated. Thanks in advance.

    • ANSWER:
      That sounds horrible! I'm so sorry you have to deal with this condition!

      To alleviate the discomfort, you could try this before bed: slather your feet in coconut oil, cover them with plastic bags & sleep. Coconut oil has the ability to destroy microorganisms. When your skin cracks, you become vulnerable to all the little buggers that you're normally protected from. Plus, coconut oil is very soothing & moisturizing.

      As far as a cure goes, have you asked any naturopathic doctors? Regular medical doctors will most likely put you on a drug that may or may not mask the symptoms. Some naturopathic doctors will do the same thing but prescribe an herbal remedy or supplement in place of the drug. What you need is a detective!- someone who will look at you as a whole, unique person and figure out the root cause of your chilblain. Search for "naturopath" and your city name in Google.

      The goal in your cure would be to increase your circulation.
      -Circulation can be related to anemia or hormone imbalances (linked to the thyroid). A doctor can help make a diagnosis.
      -Maybe a massage therapist or reflexologist could be of help? (Reflexology's a special type of massage for the feet.) Or, you could gently massage your feet yourself- anything to get the blood flowing!
      -An acupuncturist would be skilled at helping jump start your body's circulation...
      -Exercise
      -Herbs: ginseng, garlic, ginger, ginkgo, cayenne & goto kola (make sure these don't interact with any medications or other conditions you may have)

      In the meantime, keep those little piggies warm (wool socks)! I'd also suggest eating foods high in antioxidants. When circulation's sluggish, blood can't get to the tiny capillaries in your toes... stagnant blood is good at creating free radicals which can cause harm to your tissues. The more antioxidants you have in your blood, the better chance you have of getting rid of these free radicals. Eat darkly colored fruits and veggies, raw if possible. And, don't be afraid of cholesterol (in eggs & meat) because it's one of nature's best antioxidants! :)

      Good luck!

  21. QUESTION:
    Raynaud's vs. Chilblains, or something else?
    I think I might have Raynaud's syndrome, but I dont really get the symptoms in my hands. My hands can get very cold and feel like they are burning when exposed to cold, but they don't turn colors. However, my feet are a different story. My third and fouth toes on the right foot turn purple and numb quite often. The skin on them is very rough and dry, but not on my other toes (maybe a little, but nothing like the two toes), and and they are sometimes swollen. My feet always feel cold....I could wear 3 pairs of socks and still be freezing.
    In the spring and summer though, I dont have this problem with my toes. Does anyone know what this could be? I had the same problem last year and went to the doc, had an aterial doppler study on my legs that was normal, its not diabetes or vitamin b12 deficiency or peripheral neuropathy. My sed rate was somewhat elevated. The doctor really didnt know what the problem was or how to treat it but it eventually went away.. I am just wondering what type of doctor I should go see about this? A rheumatologist, dermatologist, pediatrist, or neurologist? Thanks for your help!!
    I dont want to go back to that doctor, I would like to get a second opinion but I dont know who I should go to.

    • ANSWER:
      what does your doctor recommend? seek a 2nd opinion.

  22. QUESTION:
    my toe is burning/itching, i dont think its frostbite what could it be?
    i was out in the cold for a while waiting for the bus. i had converses on which are thin on the top. after school my mom picked me up and i walked out to her car. it was only once i was in the car that i noticed my toes burning. they are still bright red and puffy. they itch like hell when they get re-warmed. (like every night when i go to bed because i use a heated blanket. i freeze without it). i looked it up on the internet and found this

    Chilblains is a painful inflammation of small blood vessels in your skin responding to sudden warming from cold temperatures. Also known as pernio, chilblains can cause itching, red patches, swelling and blistering on extremities, such as on your toes, fingers, ears and nose.

    Chilblains usually responds well to treatment and clears up within 14 days. Treatments typically consist of lotions and medication. While it doesn't usually result in permanent injury, chilblains can lead to severe damage if left untreated.

    The best approach to chilblains is to avoid developing it by limiting your exposure to cold, dressing warmly and covering exposed skin.

    could it be this?? and if it is how can i heal it faster without going to the doctors? how can i keep the burning down when i go to bed at night?

    • ANSWER:
      i would make sure to go to your doctor asap just in case it is serious and they will be able to tell you what it is and give you treatment.

  23. QUESTION:
    Do you know the cause of severely sore, red ,itchy feet? ?
    I only get this irritating skin condition during winter time. It's not chilblains or athletes foot. My feet swell, become red, are very sore and itchy, on top of my toes. So bad that I feel to chop off them off. Doctors have prescribed me with creams that have made it worse. So far no one knows what it could be.

    • ANSWER:
      Atheletes Foot. That's what I have and it sounds the same as what you have.

  24. QUESTION:
    McGloins Chilblain Ointment?
    Has anyone ever used this? I have been for about 3 months and at first I thought it was helping but I still get lots and lots of chilblains. Has anyone found it effective and do you know any other quick chilblain fixes besides prevention. I do all I can to prevent the chilblains but I find they happen at night. I wake up with fat swollen fingers and toes but I wear gloves and keep my hands at a comfortable temperature during the day. I have even turned off the heating in my bedroom so I don't know why it keeps happening. I am looking now for some way to heal them faster (I find it takes 3 times as long for them to heal when I use McGloins) and to stop them from hurting so much and itching. Thanks so much!! If you have ever had chilblains you will realize how desperate I am!

    • ANSWER:
      From the link...
      do not rub or scratch chilblains
      * avoid direct heat (ie do not expose the feet to a heater), but keep the feet warm by the use of woollen socks and footwear
      * use soothing lotions (eg calamine lotion)
      * if the skin is broken, use an antiseptic dressing to prevent the chilblains becoming infected

      Having a cold bedroom might not help as feet often get cold in the night unless the bed is really warm especially where your feet are.
      You can stop itching on unbroken skin with an antihistamine cream
      Only by keeping your hands and feet constantly warm can chilblains be prevented.
      I used to have them when younger in the days before central heating. I didn't find any camphor ointment did any good.

  25. QUESTION:
    Swollen, Purple, Itchy toe!?
    Okay, the toe beside my big toe is really inflamed, it sometimes itches, and it has a purple patch on it.. i did think it was a chilblain but now im not sure as its really swollen. Oh, also, when my foot gets hot my toe feels like its burning.. anyone have any ideas what this could be??

    Thanks in advance! x

    • ANSWER:
      It could be a fungal infection. Read about athlete's foot and other fungal infections.

  26. QUESTION:
    Do you think I have chilblain?
    I have an unsual bump/blister on my middle toe on my right foot. It's nasty! It's extremely itchy and makes it hard for me to walk, especially in shoes. The area of the foot is red and swollen. How do I treat this?

    • ANSWER:
      Chilblains is inflammation of the small blood vessels in the skin in response to cold but above-freezing temperatures. This results in red, swollen skin — usually on the face, ears, fingers and toes — which appears several hours after exposure to cold. You may also experience an itchy, burning sensation in the affected skin. Sometimes chilblains progresses to blisters and even open sores.
      Just keep it warm.
      Example: In the morning wear very comfortable slippers.
      Or if you walk around with no socks on. I'd say you wear warm comfortable shoes.