What is frostbite? Frostbite means tissues have been exposed to extreme cold. It typically affecting the nose, fingers, or toes and sometimes resulting in gangrene can be injured by that cold.There are three frostbite stages. The first degree irritates the skin. The second degree blisters but has no major damage. The third degree involves all layers of the skin and causes permanent tissue damage to include amputation.
Frostbite can be accompanied by hypothermia, a condition of developing an abnormally low body temperature. “Frostbite and hypothermia are both cold-related medical emergencies.”
Everyone is susceptible, even people who have been living in cold climates for most of their lives. Some groups of people at greatest risk for frostbite and hypothermia include the following:
- •The homeless, hikers, hunters, etc.;
- •Those under the influence of alcohol;
- •The elderly without adequate heating, food, and shelter;
- •Those exhausted or excessively dehydrated.
Frostbite is caused by two different means; one is cell death at the time of exposure. Ice crystals form in the space outside of the cells. Water is lost from the cell’s interior, and dehydration promotes the destruction of the cell and death because of a lack of oxygen.
In the second, the damaged lining of the blood vessels is the main culprit. As blood flow returns to the extremities upon rewarming, it finds that the blood vessels themselves are injured, also by the cold. The vessel walls become permeable and blood leaks out into the tissues. Blood flow is impeded and turbulent and small clots form in the smallest vessels of the extremities. Because of these blood flow problems, complicated interactions occur, leading to inflammation that causes further tissue damage. This injury is the primary determinant of the amount of tissue damage that occurs in the end.
A minor case may include burning, numbness, tingling, itching or cold sensations, and the area will appear white and frozen, but if you press on them, they retain some resistance.
In deep frostbite, there is a decrease in sensation that is eventually completely lost. Swelling and blood-filled blisters form over white or yellowish skin that looks waxy and turns a purplish blue. The area is hard, has no resistance when pressed on, and may even appear blackened and dead.
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