Tuesday, February 12, 2013

February Feet: An Overview of Cold Weather Feet Conditions

Every year, the month of February brings an abundant amount of joy and celebration. Among those things are include: Valentine’s Day, where we celebrate the human desire of love & togetherness; American Black History Month, were we reflect on our nation’s history and race relations; and President’s day, where we honor our current and past Commander-in-Chiefs. Although all of these heart-warming celebrations come along with February, there is also one other thing that is coupled with this beloved month: the freezing cold weather! It is one unavoidable wrinkle in what is otherwise a perfect month. Recognizing this unfortunate condition, the folks here at Community Foot Specialist took the time out to help you understand and prevent some feet conditions related to the cold weather.

Here are some of the most common conditions related to your feet that occur in cold weather:

Frostnip & Frostbite

Frostnip and Frostbit are in close relation, so much so that some people really do not recognize the difference. This is completely understandable, given that they both signal the same symptoms, with the only true difference being the degree of severity. With frostnip, your skin still becomes pale, feels cold, uncomfortable, and stiff, but the deeper tissues are not necessarily harmed. Because these deeper tissues are not significantly affected, Frostnip typically does not lead to blisters. On the contrary, Frostbite, due to its more severe damage to the underlying tissues, does lead to blisters after the skin re-warms. Depending on the severity of the Frostbite itself, the results can be worse—possibly damaging nerves, tissues, and tendons.
Although Frostbite in the modern English colloquial is treated as a minor condition, it can lead to very serious results. It is imperative that your dress appropriately for the weather, avoid standing in snow and other extremely cold surfaces for extended periods of time, and most of all, that your recognize when you have or when you are starting to develop Frostbite. It is important that you notice the symptoms of Frostbite and that you receive medical attention as soon as possible, because untreated and unattended Frostbite can lead to extreme cases such as gangrene, which will undoubtedly require amputation—who wants their toes cut off!?  

Pernio (Chilblains)

           Although, generally, Pernio does not lead to as serious effects as Frostbite, it’s results can be extremely irritating and uncomfortable. Pernio develops when a person (more often than not, said person is already highly susceptible) is exposed to cold conditions & high humidity. This unfortunate combination results in the person having an itching, burning, and possibly sweating sensations. These symptoms can go on for weeks, even if treated, and even longer if it is not. The affected area can develop lesions that can eventually become blistered.  On the extreme side of the spectrum, pernio can, in fact, cause skin ulcers and infections, which is why it is, once again, important to know the symptoms and get it treated as soon as possible. To help prevent Pernio (chilblains), revisit the advice given for prevention of Frostbite, and in addition: Do exercises that help the flow of your blood circulation, make sure that your socks & shoes are dry at all times, and when returning from the cold avoid exposing your feet to sudden and extreme warmth.

Trench Foot

          Trench Foot, more formally known as Immersion Foot, has a couple overlaps with both Frostbite & Pernio. Trench Foot is commonly associated with people who work in cold and harsh conditions—hence the name. Often times, the most common individuals who are affected by Trench Foot are those who work on their feet in cold harsh conditions; who wear boots; and who are in these conditions for a prolonged time.  Like Frostbite, Trench Foot can exhibit blisters, sores, and, in extreme cases, gangrene and we know where that leads. . .
         To prevent Trench Foot, it is important to heed all the advice that has been aforementioned. Try your best to stay warm and dry. If you are a person who works on your feet often and extendedly, it is important that you take care of your feet outside of work—see a podiatrist and get your foot examined  frequently (we have six locations! J ).

Although some of these conditions seem daunting if you know about them know, you can prevent them in the future—what is that old saying, “the best defense is a good offense”?  We hope that this guide can help you so that you may enjoy all of the wonderful celebrations that February has to offer.

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