Chilblains are patches of red, swollen and itchy skin believed to be caused by a combination of cold weather and poor circulation. The toes are particularly vulnerable, but other extremities can develop chilblains including fingers, ear lobes and the nose.
Tight shoes can also contribute by irritating and pressing on the skin of the toes, especially the little toe. Despite the discomfort, chilblains do not cause any permanent damage to tissue.
Not everyone exposed to cold and damp conditions will develop chilblains, which leads some researchers to believe that those who do are overly sensitive to changes in weather and temperature. The elderly, sedentary, teenagers and people with medical conditions such as anaemia are most susceptible.