Frostbite is a common injury that can cause severe damage to your skin, muscle, bone, and other tissue if it doesn’t get treated quickly.
It happens in three stages: frostnip, superficial Frostbite, and deep Frostbite. All phases require medical treatment to prevent permanent damage to your skin and tissue.
Frostbite is a severe condition that requires prompt medical attention. It can be dangerous for someone dehydrated or in a state of hypothermia (low body temperature).
Frostnip, which results in chilly, tingling skin, is the initial stage of frostbite. After rewarming, it typically goes away without causing any tissue harm.
A more serious injury that may result in tissue damage below the skin’s surface is severe symptoms. It consists of the muscles, blood vessels, and nerves.
The skin can become white, blue, or blotchy and hard to touch. It is the most severe type of frostbite and can lead to gangrene, which is skin that breaks and rots.
People with severe frostbite usually need hospitalization. They may need amputations because the tissue is so damaged.
After exposure to cold temperatures for several weeks, people will develop dull, continuous pain in the affected areas. It will become a throbbing sensation as the tissue thaws and blood flow is re-established. The tissues will also have redness and swelling. This process can take a week to months.
Numbness is a common frostbite symptoms and may occur before or after the pain starts. Doctors diagnose numbness based on the person’s symptoms, medical history, and a physical exam (testing touch, temperature, reflexes, and muscle function).
Frostbite can cause numbness in many body parts, especially the hands, feet, nose, ears, and lips. It can also affect the arms and legs.
Early stages of frostbite, called frostnip, often begin with pins and needles, throbbing or aching, and white or cold skin that feels numb or tingling. If these symptoms persist, get inside immediately and treat the area with warm water.
In the next stage, the skin is hardened and looks waxy and darkened. You may experience swelling and blood-filled blisters, which can be uncomfortable.
When the tissues are rewarmed, and reperfusion is complete, your skin begins to feel normal again. However, the rewarming process does damage cells, so your doctor may need to give you narcotics to help you handle the pain. You may also need to be treated in the hospital until the final tissue separation is complete.
When exposed to freezing temperatures, the top layers of your skin and tissues below it can damage. It is called frostbite.
In the early stages of frostbite, the affected skin is red or sore and feels cold. It is the first warning sign of frostbite, and you should seek warm shelter immediately.
You should also see your doctor as soon as possible if the swelling becomes painful or if it is getting worse. Your doctor can do tests to find out the cause of the bulge.
Your doctor may do an X-ray, bone scan, or MRI to examine the tissue damage and help diagnose frostbite. They will also check for a health condition that makes you more likely to have frostbite.
The treatment for superficial frostbite is to rewarm the area with body heat or immerse it in warm water until standard skin color returns. Afterward, the site should be wrapped in sterile bandages.
When exposed to cold temperatures, your blood vessels constrict to divert blood away from your fingers and toes. It helps maintain your core body temperature, but it can also cause damage to your skin and tissues in these areas.
As the blood flow slows, fluid in your skin cells can freeze into ice crystals, which cause severe tissue damage and even death. These ice crystals can block blood flow in the fine capillaries of your skin, depriving the tissues of oxygen and nutrients.
Frostnip is a mild form of frostbite, occurring when the skin in exposed areas of your body becomes red or sore. You may have a few blisters on the affected skin, but these aren’t permanent and can re-appeared once the area warms up.
Deep frostbite (also known as second-degree frostbite) involves the outer layer of skin and the tissues below it. It can cause your skin to turn blue, splotchy, and numb when touched or pushed against. You may also develop fluid-filled blisters and a hard black covering over the damaged skin.
Change in Skin Color
Skin color can change because of many factors, including genetics, sun exposure, and hormones. It can also result from medical conditions, such as liver problems, blood disorders, cancer, and organ failure.
During the first stage (frostnip) of frostbite, the skin appears pale or white and feels cold, numb, or tingly. Usually, simple rewarming restores standard color and sensation and prevents further permanent tissue damage.
However, if the freezing continues and your skin reds, you’ll need immediate medical attention. You’ll need to seek treatment for superficial frostbite, which affects the top layers of your skin and tissue.
Superficial frostbite can cause swelling, itching, and small blisters called chilblains. It’s a warning sign that you should get inside and treat the area with warm water right away. You’ll also see prominent blisters forming and your skin turning black as its cells die from freezing. It is the second stage of frostbite and requires prompt medical treatment to avoid permanent damage. It’s rare for this stage to lead to amputation, but it can occur in severe cases.