Spring may be just around the corner, but winter weather doesn’t seem to be letting up for a while still. So why not talk about the types and signs of winter injuries? The most common is frostbite This can happen as a result of exposure to below-freezing temperatures (or above-freezing cold temperatures if moisture is involved), which decreases blood flow to tissues in your feet. Cells become damaged and can start to die if the condition is not treated quickly enough. At the beginning of frostbite, you may notice your skin turn a white or blue color and become numb.
The key is to remove yourself from the cold and re-warm your feet as soon as possible. As you re-warm the area, you may feel tingling and burning sensations as well as severe pain, but it is absolutely necessary to do this. Once you end exposure to cold and re-warm your feet and toes, you may notice redness, itching, and some swelling for up to 10 days. If you notice severe discolorations from cold exposure, come to our office immediately so we can treat your feet in the proper manner. At all costs, avoid re-freezing after you have thawed out the injured foot or toe, as this freeze-thaw-refreeze cycle can cause even more significant damage.
As frostbite gets worse from continued cold exposure, blisters can form, which will eventually cause the skin to turn a dark color and peel off as new skin grows underneath. In severe cases, ulcers can develop and eventually your feet or toes will turn black and have no feeling.
Another common cold injury seen in the feet is called asteatotic eczema, which is extremely dry, scaly rough, and cracking skin.
This is common in the elderly since they tend to have less natural skin moisturizing properties, and it is often seen on the front of your shins. The dry, itchy skin often leads to scratching, which in turn can lead to cracking and bleeding, increasing the chances of infection. It’s important to moisturize the skin before that happens. An effective way to do this is to apply petroleum jelly in a thin layer over the area after a shower, trapping the moisture in the skin. You can also try a eucerin cream from your local drugstore.
Remember to always keep your feet, socks, and shoes as warm and dry as possible during these last few winter months. If you have any concerns or would like to find out more about how to prevent or treat cold injuries, call us to make an appointment by dialing (309) 661-9975.