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My friend has chilblains. What can be done?

By Dave / May 25, 2007

Question: Dear Dave,

Maybe you can help me. As before, thank you. My friend has chilblains on his hands and it looks and is very sore. I know the cause is due to improper blood flow to the hands, so I don’t really believe in ointments.

Is there something that he can do to make the blood circulation to his hands better. I’ve said he should try using ultraviolet light, but I’m not that sure. My mom says he should pee on his hands first thing in the morning, but he’s not up to that no matter how much pain he is in.

Answer: I’m with your friend. I don’t think urinating on his hands is going to help much. I’m not knocking urine therapy and I really don’t know much about it, though I have heard of it. But, I can’t see that helping with this problem.

Chilblains (also called pernio) is an inflammation consisting of irregular (usually swollen) red-blue patches across the skin that appear after exposure to cold and moisture. It most frequently happens to women. However, as in your case, it can happen to men too.

The onset of chilblains is attributed to exposure to cold and moisture. However, you said it was due to improper blood flow. Did he get chilblains from exposure to cold? If not, this may not be chilblains but some other problem.

Other diseases have been known to produce symptoms similar to chilblains.

Basically, if he didn’t get this from exposure to cold in the last 14 days, you should go see a doctor.

If he did get it from exposure to cold in the last 14 days, then it should clear up on its own. If it does not, then you should see a doctor.

As far as natural remedies go, here is an herbal remedy designed to improve circulation.

If there are not open sores and the skin is not cut or cracked, I have read that cayenne pepper is helpful. If the skin is cracked or cut, then I have read that using calendula ointment might be helpful.

Zinziber officinalis otherwise known as ginger might be recommended by a doctor of Chinese medicine. According to herbalists, ginger has anti-inflammatory and circulation improving properties.

For real chilblains, treatment may include corticosteroids to help contain the itching and swelling. Medications to improve circulation may be prescribed.

It is important to slowly warm the affected area after exposure to cold.

If there is a great deal of pain, you might consider over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain medications, but I would check with my doctor first.

It is important to clean and cover any sores with a sterile dressing*

Though chilblains occurs after exposure to above freezing cold temperatures, it is unknown what mechanism actually causes chilblains. It is suspected that abnormal proteins are responsible, but this has not been verified yet.

Please let us know how things turned out.

– Dave

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* this post is for entertainment only, see your doctor for diagnosis, treatment and advice.

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Dave