Frostbite can happen if your feet or toes have prolonged contact with ice, snow, or other freezing material. It occurs when the tissue beneath the skin freezes.
If your feet have been exposed to freezing temperatures and you are experiencing symptoms such as cold skin, pain, burning, and loss of sensation, seek medical attention as soon as possible to prevent serious complications.
Having poor circulation in your feet and legs can put you at risk for frostbite. The following conditions that are associated with poor circulation can make you more prone to frostbite:
- Peripheral arterial disease
- Peripheral neuropathy
Signs of Frostbite
In the earliest stage of frostbite, the toes may begin to hurt, feel cold to the touch, and appear red, but no damage to the tissues has occurred at this point. As the feet re-warm, you may experience a tingling sensation.
As frostbite worsens, there will be a change in the color of the skin. The skin will change from red to a paler color such as gray, yellow, or white. There may be a loss of sensation in the feet and toes. At this stage, if you try to rewarm the feet and toes, blisters may form and you may feel burning and stinging since ice crystals may have formed in the tissue.
Serious signs of frostbite that need immediate attention include:
- Pain and swelling in the toes
- Feeling sleepy
- Skin of the feet feels waxy
If you are experiencing signs of frostbite, it is important to seek medical attention as soon as possible. You will want to remove any wet or frozen materials from the feet and cover them with a dry dressing. To treat frostbite, the feet and toes will need to be rewarmed gradually to prevent further damage. This can be done by placing the feet in warm water to soak. If you try to warm up the feet too quickly, you may suffer burns or other complications since the feet and toes may be numb and you may not feel the heat.
In addition to rewarming, the following may also be done to treat frostbite:
- A loose, sterile dressing may be applied to protect the frostbitten areas.
- An antibiotic may be used to treat any possible infection if blisters have occurred.
- Debridement may be done to remove any damaged tissue to promote healing.
To prevent frostbite, dress appropriately for the conditions. Wear warm socks and winter boots to protect your feet from the elements and to help maintain core temperature.
Contact a Podiatrist for Help
If you have frostbite on your feet, seek immediate medical attention. Contact Greater Washington Advanced Podiatry for help. We offer a free initial consultation and can recommend the best treatment for your specific condition. To schedule an appointment, fill out our contact form online or call our office at 301-515-FEET.