Vasa. 2020 Mar;49(2):133-140. doi: 10.1024/0301-1526/a000838. Epub 2019 Dec 6.


Idiopathic chilblain is a relatively common yet poorly recognized acrosyndrome. This literature review aims to better understand and draw attention to this disorder. Chilblain is a localized inflammation of the skin that occurs on exposure to cold but non-freezing wet weather. It usually resolves spontaneously. The etiology is uncertain, but vasospasm seems to play a role in this abnormal reaction to cold. Diagnosis is most often based on clinical presentation, but a skin biopsy can be useful in dubious cases. In histology, dermal edema and an inflammatory infiltrate are usually present. A distribution of the infiltrate particularly around the eccrine gland is typical. Systemic symptoms and underlying autoimmune disease should be screened. Avoiding cold and keeping extremities warm is the first recommendation for management, as well as smoking cessation. Calcium channel blockers (in particular nifedipine) seems to be the treatment that has been most evaluated in chilblains. However, their effectiveness is not confirmed by all studies. Topical betamethasone is often used but its effect has not been confirmed by randomized clinical trials. Other treatments, such as pentoxifylline, hydrochloroquine and topical nitroglycerin have shown positive effects only in a reduced number of patients. Acupuncture seems to bring a benefit.

Keywords: Chilblain; acrosyndrom; microcirculation; pernio.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Chilblains*
  • Cold Temperature
  • Humans
  • Skin
  • Vasoconstriction