The exact cause of chilblains has not been determined, but they seem to be due to a combination of cold temperatures and circulatory problems. Not everyone who’s exposed to cold conditions develops chilblains, so it appears that some people are more sensitive to temperature changes than others.
One possible explanation is that parts of the body may be deprived of the blood they need by the constriction of the blood vessels near the skin with cold temperatures (which is one of the body’s mechanisms for conserving body warmth).
Factors that increase the likelihood of developing chilblains include:
- Wearing tight shoes that rub on or irritate the skin of the toes
- Being sedentary
- Health problems that affect the circulation, for example anaemia or Raynaud’s phenomenon
The elderly and teenagers are particularly susceptible, and women are more likely to be affected by chilblains than men.