Avoiding Frostbite and Gangrene

Whether we like it or not, cold weather is here to stay in Onondaga County, and it is bound to bring some snow along with it. Whether you are someone who could spend hours playing outside, or someone who walks as briskly as possible from your home to your car, frostbite is a concern for everyone. When your body senses a drop in temperature, it constricts your blood vessels, restricting the flow of blood and oxygen to your extremities. Over a long period of time, this lack of circulation can lead to dead tissue and skin (also known as gangrene) in the feet, hands, ears, and nose. In the most serious cases, this can result in widespread infection and permanent loss of feeling and function.

Anyone can become frostbitten, but the following groups are more susceptible:

  • Diabetics and seniors, because of their already-poor circulation
  • Children, because of their smaller extremities
  • Outdoor workers and the homeless, because of the amount of time they spend outdoors

With superficial frostbite, only the top few layers of skin are affected. Your skin may begin to turn white, form crystals, and feel warm again—a dangerous warning sign. Deep frostbite is an extremely serious condition in which damage has progressed to the nerves, muscles, and bones, and the skin may turn black in color. In either case, frostbite demands immediate medical attention and access to a warm environment. Tip: It is best to rewarm the skin gradually, rather than plunging it in hot water or holding it over a fire!

Stop frostbite dead in its tracks by wearing multiple layers and appropriate footwear, taking frequent breaks indoors, and removing wet clothing immediately. As a Syracuse native, board-certified podiatrist Dr. Ryan L. D’Amico of Syracuse Podiatry knows that the cold weather can pose problems for patients of all ages. He can treat any winter-related sports injury, in addition to a wide variety of other foot and ankle conditions like heel pain, diabetic wounds, and ulcers. If you have any questions, or would like to schedule an appointment, contact our Fayetteville office at (315) 446-3668!

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