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Keywords:

  • chilblain;
  • pernio;
  • vasculitis;
  • vasculopathy

Aim

Primary chilblains are an idiopathic cold-induced vasculopathy affecting the soft tissues of the hands and feet. Secondary chilblains occur in different forms of vasculitis and chronic autoimmune connective tissue disorders. Idiopathic chilblains are rarely reported in children and may generate significant anxiety to doctors and patients. We describe a cluster of idiopathic chilblains encountered over the winter of 2010 in Perth, Western Australia.

Methods

This is a retrospective review of patients identified from a prospectively compiled database of all new cases seen in our department. Data on history, examination, investigations, prescribed treatments and outcomes were collected.

Results

Thirty-two patients with isolated idiopathic chilblains were included, including 20 females and 12 males with a median age at onset of 13.5 years. Lesions were papular with signs of peripheral vasoconstriction causing acrocyanosis, and uncomfortable due to pain and/or pruritis in most. Thickening of the small joints was common where lesions involved these areas. Ulceration of lesions also occurred in some. One patient required hospitalisation for secondary bacterial infection. Most received some form of treatment including non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, prednisolone or nifedipine. Most patients improved spontaneously with warmer weather or responded to cold protection advice. All had resolved completely by late spring (November).

Conclusion

Our cluster of chilblains was associated with an unusually cold winter in Perth 2010. It is the largest series reported in the literature, suggesting that chilblains may be more common than previously thought. Chilblains are almost always benign in nature and patients are systemically well and usually need no further investigation and only symptomatic treatment. Prompt recognition can avoid excessive investigation and anxiety, allowing appropriate simple advice and treatment.