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Posts for tag: cold injuries

If the temperatures outside are keeping you indoors this time of year, you’re not alone. I hate the cold. For the brave souls who like to venture out into the snowy weather, a few words of caution. Your toes need to be protected! Proper footwear is always a must because frostbite and chilblains are common foot injuries brought on by the cold. As usual, they are easy to avoid if we understand how they happen and what to do about it.

 

Frostnip

Many people will know frostbite, but there is a milder form of cold injury called frostnip. Just because it’s milder, doesn’t mean it still isn't uncomfortable and bad for your feet. It generally begins in the toes. The skin will turn white or flush red and feel extremely cold to the touch. In a short time, this can lead to numbness or a feeling of pins and needles. Without rewarming, frostnip will lead to frostbite. Think of it as an early warning sign and get yourself indoors where your feet can get care. Soak your feet in water, but bring the temperature up very gradually. Don’t start with hot water; you probably can’t feel if it’s too hot and scalding your feet.

 

READ MORE: Winter Boot Buying Guide

 

Frostbite

In the cold, the blood vessels nearest the skin narrow, diverting blood to the core of the body to protect the vital organs. Unfortunately, this leaves fingers, toes, and nose tips left out in the cold. Literally. Since your body is no longer trying to warm those areas, they have no defense against cold injuries. If you leave them exposed, frostbite will slowly freeze the skin and tissue underneath. In severe cases, tissue will die and need to be surgically removed. If you think you are developing frostbite, seek medical treatment immediately.

 

Chilblains

Most people know what frostnip and frostbite are and how to avoid them, but there is another type of cold injury that can occur even when it's not below freezing. Chilblains is a condition in which the feet react to cold with inflammation. This causes red patches, itching, swelling, and can be accompanied by painful blisters, called pernio. Just like nail fungus likes to grow in warm and moist socks, chilblains like to form in cold and damp socks. Frostbite can onset quickly due to freezing temperatures, but chilblains occur from long exposure to mild cold and humidity. You may not even feel it happening, but long term damage is being done to your blood vessels. Symptoms can stick around for a while without proper treatment, so get yourself to a podiatrist asap.

 

To prevent any cold injury there are some basic steps to follow. Keep your feet warm at all times. When going outside, wear warm socks that pull moisture away from the skin (wool is a good choice). If you don’t have a lot of body fat to keep you warm, add an extra layer of socks. Same thing if you have excessively sweaty feet. Avoid rapid temperature changes if your feet do get too cold. Never warm up your feet if there is a chance of them refreezing before reaching proper medical care.

READ MORE: Keep Your Feet Warm

This winter has seen record setting low temperatures and all that cold air can do horrific things to your skin and feet. Skin needs moisture to retain its smooth texture, but winter brings a lack of humidity that can leave your heels screaming for more. Not only is dry air causing our heels to crack, but it’s also a combination of dehydration (we tend to drink less water in winter) and our preference for hot showers. Soaking your feet in water does not actually moisturize them. Hot water will pull essential oils from your skin and worsen the cracking.

 

READ MORE: Quick Fixes for Yoru Feet

For some, the inconvenience of cracked heels is only an aesthetic one, but for many others, cracked heels may lead to pain when walking (particularly when barefoot), open and bleeding wounds, or even infection. This can put a  damper on everything from snowman building to just going to work each day.

 

Even if you don’t currently feel pain from your heel fissures, you’ll want to do something about them. Adding moisture is the best thing to do, but we must remove the dry skin first to get to the healthy skin underneath. If your heel fissures are cracked open and bleed or are painful, come see your podiatrist rather then removing the skin yourself. If you heel fissures are just an ugly inconvenience, you can work on them yourself.

 

While taking a long hot bath will dry out your skin, soaking your feet for ten minutes in a warm tub will help soften the dead and dry layers so you can work them off with a pumice stone. Make sure you soak the stone itself as well then firmly rub your feet in circular patterns. Be sure to rinse the stone and your foot every few minutes to rinse away the dead skin cells. It may take several attempts before you start to see a difference, but take it slow and remember, you don’t have to get it all off in one go. The really important step comes next.

 

Moisturize! There’s no point in removing cracked, dry skin only to have more cracked, dry skin appear in its place. Make sure you are properly applying moisturizer to your heels and protect your feet properly during the day and night. Remove dead skin during your evening shower then lather on a thick moisturizer and put a pair of light cotton socks on overtop. This holds the lotion onto your feet so it can soak in overnight. You can do the same during the day, but make sure it’s a pair of warm wool socks. Don’t walk around your home barefoot in winter as this can exacerbate already dry heels. Be sure to use a thick moisturizer, but avoid dyes and perfumes.

 

We may pray for the ice to crack so it can melt and be gone, but a dry, cracked heel won’t go away so easily. If home remedies don’t seem to be cutting it, make an appointment with your podiatrist or with our PediCare salon. Our certified technicians are trained to remove callused and cracked skin gently, leaving your heels smooth and pretty.

 

READ MORE: Year-Round Foot Care

    Over the river and through the woods to Grandmother’s house we go and when we get there there’s slipping and sliding up to the front door. Nothing can ruin your holiday spirit faster than a broken bone from a bad fall. One of the most common areas affected by slips and falls is the ankle. The ankle is made of the tibia, fibula (both running down the leg), and the talus. It also contains multiple ligaments and tendons, all susceptible to injury. There are some important things you can do to help avoid injury this winter.

Get the Right Shoes

    The right shoes can make all the difference this winter. Ice has very little surface grip because when your shoes step down on it, the very topmost layer melts, causing a slippery surface. Having shoes with high treads (lots of deep grooves in the bottom) can help you gain traction. Flat shoes with no tread will be unable to grip the ground, meaning you risk slipping and falling. High heals are also a no-no on ice. Take them with you and put them on once you are inside the venue.

 

Treat Walkways

    The most logical way to avoid falling on ice is to avoid walking on ice, but this is easier said than done. Properly treating walkways is a key step. Ice can be avoided or it can be melted after it forms. To avoid ice, pre-treat with a liquid solution that coats the entire surface (make sure it’s environmentally safe though or you’ll be killing your lawn in the process). You can also use ice melting products after the snow has fallen and frozen. Rock salt is a popular option, but can cause damage to concrete and plants and is lethal to pets. Try something with less impact like Magnesium Chloride. If you can’t melt the ice, you can also avoid slipping by putting down rubber mats or sand.

 

Hands Free/Penguin Walk

    If you can’t avoid icy surfaces, then make sure you are walking correctly as you cross them. Work on your penguin walk. This means no hands in your pockets or full of extra items. Leave them free and slightly out from your sides to stabilize yourself. You also want to shuffle your feet more than pick them up and set them down. Lean forward and go slow; this keeps your weight over your front leg, giving you a better center of gravity.

 

Fall Gracefully

    If you do fall, try to do it with some grace. Or at least with some proper form. DON’T stick your hands out in front of you to stop yourself (the wrist and clavicle are also commonly broken from falls). Tuck your head toward your chest and try to fall onto a big muscle such as your thigh or upper arm. These softer body parts have more insulation to avoid breaks from sudden jarring.

 

    If you do slip and fall on the ice and experience any ankle pain, please go see your podiatrist immediately. Sprains, fractures, and full breaks can present with similar symptoms and if you don’t treat your injury properly it could lead to problems down the road. Be smart this winter and if you know you are prone to falling, maybe stay home until the ice melts.

Winter is fully upon us and in the midst of all your shopping frenzy, you may have noticed all the signs for new winter boots! Buy One, Get One Free or Clearance Prices may get our attention, but what about the boots themselves? How do we know if that sweet deal is going to treat our feet right? Here is a list of practical must-haves in your next pair of winter boots.

 

Material

Winter is wet and having wet feet in cold weather is a serious risk, so we want to keep our tootsies dry. For practical boots (like snow boots or hiking boots), look for naturally waterproof materials such as neoprene or rubber. In fashion boots (such as you might wear to a office holiday party), go for a treated leather to get a nice slick surface with a high quality and trendy shine. Some boots will have waterproof layers sewn into the boot liners. These keep moisture from penetrating all the way down to your socks, but still allow for a bit of breathability. Look also at the tongue of the boot, does it connect to the sides to keep water out or is it disconnected? A cuff at the top of the boot will absorb water before it enters your boot and can be very handy for activities like playing in the snow.

 

Tread

The tread of your boot is the very bottom and determines how much grip the boot will have on slippery surfaces. There’s nothing worse than going over the river and through the woods only to slip on Grandma’s front walk and end up in the emergency room. Picking the tread may be the most important feature to get right. For outdoor activities, boots should have high treads, meaning lots of space and deep channels for good grip. Same thing for indoor boots! Tracked in ice and snow quickly melts and makes floors slippery. Even if you are only wearing your boots inside, make sure they have a good solid tread. Some boots offer removable outsoles with different levels of tread so your single pair of winter boots will be just as useful hiking in a winter wonderland as they are shoveling snow so you can get to work.

 

Warmth

I don’t think it needs saying that winter is cold, but I’m going to say it anyways. Winter is cold! So of course we want out winter boots to keep our feet warm. Socks can help, but the boot itself should have insulating materials such as wool or fleece linings. Synthetic insulators are good as well, but don’t get distracted by the fancy names they make up for it. Look at the actual tag and look for what the materials really are. You may even see a temperature rating on the tag, obviously the lower the temperature it protects you in, the more insulation it has.

 

Sizing

Once you’ve chosen all your other features, you need to make sure you get that amazing pair of boots in the correct size. One good way to do this is to bring your winter socks along when you try them on. Plain cotton socks just don’t cut it in the wintertime, not even inside. You need to have thermal socks made of breathable materials that wick moisture and perspiration away from the foot. A sweaty foot inside a boot can make you colder, so look for wool or similar synthetic materials. These socks tend to be thick so try them on with your boots to get a real idea of how much room you need inside. Walk around the store and make sure your foot isn’t sliding around inside the boot which can cause blisters. Try the wall kick test; just lightly kick the wall with the boot tip and if your toes hit the front of the boot, you may need to consider going up a size.

 

New shoes can make everything better, but not if they lead to pain, slipping, or cold and wet feet. Make sure you check each of these important features before heading to the checkout.

There are many things about the human body that we have yet to understand. One of those things is a strange condition called Raynaud’s disease. When some people's bodies overreact to stress or cold temperatures the small blood vessels in their toes and fingers spasm and narrow, causing color changes, numbness and tingling. Science isn’t exactly sure what the underlying cause of this disease (sometimes referred to as a syndrome or phenomenon) really is.

The disease manifests in episodes, called vasospasms, which can occur during exposure to cold temperatures or during times of high stress. All of the blood vessels in our skin are thermoregulatory, meaning they naturally react to changing temperatures by diverting blood to internal veins to maintain body temperature. For someone with Raynaud’s disease, this natural bodily function is intensified and the vessels narrow to a much larger degree even during simple events such as holding a cold glass or being exposed to air conditioning. Now the color show begins. First the digits will turn white (pallor) as the vessels narrow. Then, they turn blue (cyanosis) because they are not receiving ample oxygen rich blood. Lastly, as the blood vessels return to normal, the digits turn red and may hurt or tingle.

Doctors are able to diagnose Raynaud’s disease fairly easily, but identifying an underlying cause is much more difficult. With a full family history and physical examination, doctors can determine if they disease stands on its own (the most common form) or if a secondary factory is causing the symptoms. The disease usually affects women and manifests around the age of 30. It also runs in families, and most patients with the disease have at least one primary family member who is also affected.

The generally prescribed treatment is simple lifestyle changes such as avoiding cold weather and managing stress. For people with Primary Raynaud’s disease (aka not caused by an identifiable underlying cause) there is generally no tissue damage so non-prescription homeopathic remedies are best. If the phenomenon is linked to another illness, the doctor will focus on treating the cause and simply manage the symptoms in the meantime.

If you have ever had unexplained color or temperature changes in your fingers or toes during exposure to cold or stress, you could have symptoms of Raynaud’s disease. While this condition is not generally severe, if left untreated, permanent damage to bodily tissues could occur. Ask your podiatrist if you think you have these symptoms and they can help set up a treatment plan for you today.