We are in the heart of winter and have now had our first snowstorm in NY. Although most people know to dress warm, we have to remind our patients that prolonged exposure in the cold can have some detrimental effects!
With prolonged exposure to cold weather, your feet are often the first part of the body to feel the uncomfortable effects. In an effort to keep our core body temperature stable, blood vessels within our arms and legs will narrow, which is why they're the first parts of our bodies to get cold when temperatures drop.
Frostbite damages body tissues in much the same way that burns do. In fact, frostbite injuries and burn injuries can look very similar. Early frostbite can be nearly indistinguishable from a burn. The damage to skin causes almost identical swelling and blisters at first.
You can't properly treat frostbite unless you recognize it. It's important to both recognize the symptoms of frostbite and know what to do if you experience symptoms.
Mild exposure to cold typically produces pain and irritation of the skin. Greater exposure may produce burning and numbness as well as blistering and reversible damage to the outer skin layers. Eventually, there will be complete loss of sensation and permanent damage to all layers of the skin, arteries, muscles and tendons. Gangrene can ensue and various amputations may be required due to the irreversible damage to the tissues.
If you suffer from peripheral neuropathy and have poor sensation to your feet, be extra careful as you may not identify the early symptoms.
If you’ve had prolonged exposure in the cold do not hesitate to present to the doctor quickly so we can identify the problem and begin treating you! Stay safe everyone.