February 16, 2010

Frostbite Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Posted in Category : Common Ailments


While not everyone has experienced frostbite, it is a rather common occurrence to the habitants of places that have a cold climate. Simply put, frostbite is the freezing of the tissue in the body and is known to frequently affect people that expose themselves to extremely cold temperatures, when their bodies are not used to it. People like soldiers, homeless people and individuals that work outdoors in these chilly areas, place themselves at a higher risk of suffering from frostbite. The exposure to these extremely cold temperatures causes the formation of ice crystals, protein denaturation, cellular dehydration as well as abnormal cell wall permeability in the body. Frostbite is more likely to occur in the body parts that are located farthest from the heart and have large, exposed areas such as the feet and hands. The condition will start to develop when the body is exposed to temperatures at or blow 0 degrees F, and cause the blood vessels close to the skin to start contracting. This contraction of blood vessels serves to preserve the core body temperature and when the body is exposed to the cold temperature for long periods of time, the body’s ability to do this may result in the blood flow to some areas of the body falling to dangerously low levels. As a result of the lack of blood flow, the tissue will eventually freeze and the affected skin tissue will die.

Symptoms and Treatment

The condition is considered to exist in three stages. In the first stage, the skin will appear either yellow or white and you may even experience some burning sensations. Since the affects of the condition is rather mild, it can be easily reversed by simply applying some heat over the affected area. The second stage of frost bite occurs when the skin has suffered an extended exposure to cold. In this stage of the condition, you are unlikely to feel any pain. However, you will notice a significant reddening and swelling of the skin as well as the development of blisters along with the peeling of the skin. When the condition escalates to third degree frostbite, the result is a waxy, hard coating over the skin. In this stage, the skin will die and the affected individual may suffer from edema as a result of the lack of blood flow. This condition needs to be treated immediately or it could result in permanent damage. As a result of oxygen deprivation, nerve damage is highly likely, while infected open skin could also result in the development of other dangerous conditions such as gangrene, which will require amputation.