Tuesday, January 29, 2019

Cold Temperatures and the FEET

My office will be closed tomorrow, 1/30/19 and possibly 1/31/19, due to the extreme cold temperatures. With these record breaking cold temperatures, exposed skin can develop frostbite in 5-10 minutes. The skin and tissues under it actually freeze, and this can result in long term complications: nerve damage, ulcerations, infection, gangrene, loss of limbs, and loss of life. The toes (along with the fingertips, ears, and nose) are prime areas that can develop frostbite. This is of great concern for our homeless population, as many of these people walk or stand outside for prolonged periods of time. When I treated patients at Pacific Garden Mission, I saw several cases of frostbite each year. However, anyone who spends too much time out in these cold temperatures can also develop frostbite. For example, if your car breaks down, if you are walking to work, or waiting for the bus, you may be exposed to the frigid air for too long. The exposed areas of skin can feel initially very cold and have numbness and burning. As the condition persists, the skin will feel harder and change colors (purple, blue, red, grey, white). After rewarming, blisters can appear, along with pain. More serious frostbite can result in loss of sensation, difficulty moving, large blisters with rewarming, and tissue loss. If you feel that you have frostbite, please report to the nearest ER. Certain populations are more prone to frostbite: people with chronic disease, neuropathy, peripheral vascular disease, mental illness, people with a history of frostbite, smokers, and alcoholics. As mentioned, however, anyone who is exposed to the cold weather for too long can develop frostbite, even when perfectly healthy. What can you do to be safe? Stay inside during these cold temperatures, either at your home or at a warming center. Other tips: wear several layers of clothes, wear socks that wick moisture away (not cotton), wear waterproof boots or shoes, wear warm mittens, avoid alcohol, and keep moving if outside. Again, if you feel like you have developed frostbite, report to the ER! Please visit oakparkpodiatry.com to schedule an appointment.