Frostbite

Foot and ankle problems usually fall into the following categories:

  • Acquired from improper footwear, physical stress, or small mechanical changes within the foot.
  • Arthritic foot problems, which typically involve one or more joint.
  • Congenital foot problems, which occur at birth, are generally inherited.
  • Infectious foot problems, which are caused by bacterial, viral, or fungal disorders.
  • Neoplastic disorders, usually called tumors, which are the result of abnormal growth of tissue and may be benign or malignant.
  • Traumatic foot problems, which are associated with foot and ankle injuries.

Frostbite occurs when a body part is exposed to extreme cold. If conditions are cold enough for the water within the tissues to freeze and form ice crystals, cell death can occur. The feet, hands, ears and nose are particularly prone to frostbite due to their location away from the body’s core.
 
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.

Frostbite can be prevented by limiting exposure and keeping the feet as warm and dry as possible. If, however, frostbite is suspected, the feet should be rapidly re-warmed by immersion in warm water (approximately 100 degrees Farenheit).  Avoid vigorous rubbing/massaging and dry heat (such as from a hair dryer), as burns may result if numbness is present. To avoid infection, blisters or damaged skin should be treated with antibiotic cream and loose bandages, and medical attention should be sought as soon as possible.


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