/ does mild frostbite leave permanent damage?

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tomytwotoes - on 09 Jan 2017
hello! this summer my feet got pretty cold on a mountain and I couldn't feel the tips of my toes for about 3 weeks after. There was no change of colour or any visible frostbite. the thing is that now (more than 5 months later) my toes get painful cold every time I go up a mountain, much more than before. to the point that my legs can be sweating and my feet are still super cold, and when I get off the mountain, they can take up to two hours to warm up.

does anyone know if this goes away, or am I stuck with it for ever? any advice on what to do to improve it?


simonridout - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

What were the exact circumstances of your injury? How cold was it? Were your feet wet? Depending upon the circumstances, it is possible that this was Non Freezing Cold Injury, rather than Frost Nip, the name for 'mild frost bite'. A link to useful information:
I doubt that there is much that you can do now, other than to avoid getting your feet cold. You describe the symptoms as being related to altitude rather than temperature, is this correct or merely reflecting lower temperature with altitude? What sort of altitude are you referring to?
atthedropofahat on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

I had mild frost bite in my hands last year. It was a freezing cold injury but only to the surface layer and wasn't very prolonged. The tips went white and stayed that way for a few hours after. When the feeling returned they tingled for a couple of months. They are now OK although still feel slightly numb for fine tasks. They get cold and the hot aches seem worse.

Keep them warm and dry.
James Jackson on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

I agree with the above - that sounds like a non-freezing cold injury. If it is that, they do tend to get better, but it takes a while - many months in some cases. Lots of info if you search for NFCI.
pwo - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:
I had frostbite in both hands and feet and lost feeling for approx 3 weeks and then pins and needles for about 3 - 4 months in tips of fingers and toes (6 yrs ago). I now get fairly random blanching plus numbness in all the affected extremities (Summer or winter). Roughly translated I'm stuck with it. Just have to manage it when it appears. Been to see Dr and basically told to me what I already suspected that blood vessels were damaged and are prone to 'shutting down' and could be excerbated by certain activities.
tomytwotoes - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

thank you very much for the answers! interesting article, as well. I'll read more about it.

I got it on the summit push of a 7000 metre peak, with windchill it was probably around -30 C. I did have adequate boots (spantiks) and my feet were dry, but I wasn't amazingly acclimatised though, not sure that affects it...

now my feet get painful cold very easily, every time I go winter climbing (at low altitudes). In fact, just cooking in the car park, my feet get so cold it takes them more than an hour to warm up in the sleeping bag.
Andy Nisbet - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

It's due to nerve damage so hard to predict how long the damage will last. I got frost nip in 1977; toes were numb for several weeks and it took 5 years for back to perfection. But they did. I was told there wasn't much you could do for healing; just be patient and careful. It shouldn't stop you doing anything if you're careful.
David Hillebrandt - on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to simonridout:

I cannot agree more with your reference to Chris Imray's website. More people should know of the BMC frostbite (and NFCI) advice service. With fast initial treatment the damage of more severe frostbite can be minimised. See: https://www.thebmc.co.uk/how-to-get-expert-frostbite-advice?s=4 )

David Hillebrandt
worthy on 09 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:
My partner suffered an injury like this in her fingers when an Icelandic ice cave 'adventure' went wrong. They have improved with time but the recovery isn't 100% and was, erm, glacial.
Post edited at 22:39
EddieA - on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to Andy Nisbet:

I got frostnip last winter after a long ski-touring day in very strong winds, with one boot slightly too tight across the top of my foot. Ten months later the toes on my left foot are still slightly numb and more cold-susceptible. My doctor suggested Capsiacin (chilli extract cream, used to treat arthritis) might help speed recovery. I've been trying it lately and it seems to work - the numbness went quite quickly from 2 of the 3 affected toes. I put it on before heading out and it helps keep my feet warm by stimulating circulation. I still feel the cold more in my left foot and was told there is a possibility it won't get completely better. As others have said, you just have to be even more careful not to get cold extremities in future.

summo on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:

You say this 'summer' how cold is cold? UK cold in summer might give you foot rot, but not frost bite? Chances are your boots are too tight or don't fit, thus the circulation is being limited.

If you were elsewhere and it was overseas, then you probably got less than ideal advice initially, they say after some serious cold injury you should avoid getting to that part cold for 12mths, if you want the best recovery.

yes, it will always get colder quicker than those undamaged parts. Don't know if it is circulation related, permanent cell damage or nerve damage that just makes you feel colder even when it isn't, but myself and others have noticed this over the years.

Andy Nisbet - on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to EddieA:

Glad you used the word possibility. There seem to be no accurate predictions for nerve recovery, and doctors tend to be cautious, so maybe after a few years, you'll not notice any difference.
mypyrex - on 15 Jan 2017
In reply to tomytwotoes:
I know this is somewhat off topic but it sounds rather similar to peripheral neuropathy which is known can be caused by chemotherapy. This apparently is due to the treatment affecting(killing)the nerve endings in the extremities hence, I suppose, some similarity.

It's two and a half years since I finished chemo but my feet often still feel(to me) cold. I find now that I often have to wear thick woollen socks even in the summer.
Post edited at 13:44

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