Frostbite. It sounds like something that could only happen on Mount Everest or in an old-time movie, doesn’t it? If only that were true. Unfortunately, the reality is that frostbite can happen to anyone whose body is exposed to extreme cold. If the temperature is low enough, and exposure lasts long enough, the water within soft tissues can freeze and form ice crystals, leading to cell death. If you spend time outside in the cold winter months, it can happen to you.
Frostbite happens gradually, most often on the toes, fingers, ears, and nose due to their location away from the body’s core. Initially, mild exposure to cold will lead to discomfort and and irritation of the skin. Exposure to lower temperatures or longer times in the cold may produce burning, numbness, and blistering. This damage to the outer skin layers is almost always reversible. In severe cases of frostbite due to overexposure, the loss of sensation will be complete and damage to soft tissue (including skin, muscles, ligaments, and tendons) will become permanent.
You can prevent frostbite in your toes by limiting the amount of time that you spend outside and by keeping the feet as warm as possible with insulated boots and wool socks. It’s essential that feet remain dry. If your feet become damp with sweat or wet with snow, get inside and change your socks and shoes as soon as possible.
If you suspect even the slightest degree of frostbite, move inside immediately. Warm your feet by soaking them in water that is only slightly warmer than body temperature. Never use very hot water or a hair dryer, or rub your feet vigorously, as numbness makes burning yourself a very real and frightening possibility.
Of course, the best way to address frostbite or any other concern regarding the health and wellbeing of your feet, ankles, or lower legs is with a visit to the foot doctor. With years of specialized training and experience, your podiatrist is the most qualified medical professional to diagnose and treat these issues. Click here or call Podiatry Group of Annapolis, P.A. at 410-224-4448 to schedule a convenient appointment with Dr. James M. McKee in our comfortable office on Solomons Island Road in Annapolis, MD.