What are the signs and symptoms of frostbite?

Updated: Jul 29, 2019
  • Author: Bobak Zonnoor , MD; Chief Editor: Dirk M Elston, MD  more...
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Answer

Frostbite is a completely preventable injury that can occur with or without hypothermia. Below –10°C, any tissue that feels numb for more than a few minutes may become frostbitten. Progressive symptoms of frostbitten areas are as follows:

  • Coldness

  • Stinging, burning, and throbbing

  • Numbness followed by complete loss of sensation (This history of anesthesia suggests a frostbite injury.)

  • Loss of fine muscle dexterity (ie, clumsiness of fingers)

  • Loss of large muscle dexterity (ie, difficulty ambulating)

  • Severe joint pain

Numbness over the affected area is the initial symptom of frostbite. After rewarming, severe throbbing and hyperemia begin and may last for weeks. Many patients complain of paresthesias. Long-term symptoms include cold sensitivity, sensory loss, and hyperhidrosis.


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