AskDefine | Define chilblain

Dictionary Definition

chilblain n : inflammation of the hands and feet caused by exposure to cold and moisture [syn: chilblains, pernio]

User Contributed Dictionary



  1. An itchy purple red inflammation of the skin, especially of the hands, feet and ears. It occurs when capillaries below the skin are damaged by exposure to cold weather.

Derived terms


Extensive Definition

Chilblains, also called perniosis or blain, when occurring on the feet, is a medical condition that is often confused with frostbite and trench foot. Chilblains are acral ulcers that occur when a predisposed individual is exposed to cold and humidity. Acral refers to the extremities (e.g. fingers and toes). Chilblains are often idiopathic in origin but can be manifestations of serious medical conditions that need to be investigated. Chilblains can be prevented by keeping the feet and hands warm in cold weather. Smoking cessation and consultation with a dermatologist is advised.


  • Ulceration of the digits and toes
  • Itchy skin inflammation
  • Skin redness
  • Toe skin inflammation
  • Finger skin inflammation
  • Earlobe inflammation


With treatment, chilblains usually heal within 4 weeks


  • Keep area warm
  • Avoid scratching
  • Anti-itch creams, such as Calamine lotion
  • Zambuk ointment
  • Nifedipine may be used in more severe or recurrent cases. Its vasodilation helps reduce pain, facilitate healing and prevent recurrences.
  • Diltiazem, a newer calcium channel blocker, may also be used.


  • Avoid rapid changes in temperature.
  • Wear gloves
  • Use warm footwear.
  • Keep hands and feet warm.
  • A successful 'Old Wives' Treatment for chillblains is to dip feet alternatively in very hot, then very cold water until both are about the same temperature. It will take a few days to work, but it does work.

Use in Popular Culture

  • In Chapter 7 of Jane Eyre, Jane talks about the girls of Lowood during the winter.
  • A main character in Ian McEwan's novel Atonement frequently notes the presence of chilblains on her fellow nurses.
  • A skill in the MMO Guild Wars is named Chilblains.
  • In the book Dicey's Song by Cynthia Voigt, Dicey is worried about catching chillblains.
  • In the book Kushiel's Dart by Jaqueline Carey, Joscelin developed chilblains on his hands and wrists during his captivity in Skaldia.


External links

chilblain in German: Frostbeule
chilblain in Spanish: Sabañón
chilblain in Lithuanian: Nuožvarba
chilblain in Dutch: Wintertenen
chilblain in Japanese: しもやけ

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

Minamata disease, abscess, ache, aching, altitude sickness, anoxemia, anoxia, anoxic anoxia, anthrax, aposteme, bed sore, black lung, blain, bleb, blister, boil, bubo, bulla, bunion, caisson disease, canker, canker sore, carbuncle, chancre, chancroid, chilblains, chill, chilliness, chilling, cold creeps, cold shivers, cold sore, creeps, cryopathy, decompression sickness, dithers, duck bumps, eschar, felon, fester, festering, fever blister, fistula, frostbite, furuncle, furunculus, gathering, goose bumps, goose pimples, gooseflesh, gumboil, hemorrhoids, horripilation, immersion foot, itai, jet lag, kibe, lead poisoning, lesion, mercury poisoning, motion sickness, papula, papule, paronychia, parulis, petechia, piles, pimple, pneumoconiosis, pock, polyp, pustule, radiation sickness, radionecrosis, red-out, rising, scab, shivering, shivers, soft chancre, sore, stigma, sty, sunstroke, suppuration, swelling, the bends, trench foot, tubercle, ulcer, ulceration, wale, welt, wheal, whelk, whitlow, wound
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