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Frostbite Causes

Frostbite develops as a consequence of exposure to extremely low temperatures, particularly at temperatures lower than freezing point. When the body loses heat, frostbite may occur. Various other factors, including cold air temperature, moisture, and wind speed, also affect the rate with which heat leaves the body. Alcohol abuse, along with psychiatric illness, fatigue, wound infections, diabetes, atherosclerosis, as well as previous injuries resulting from low temperatures, are also major risk factors of frostbite.

Frostbite Definition

Frostbite, known in medicine as congelatio, is a condition characterized by damage to the skin and other tissue caused by exposure to extremely low temperatures, particularly temperatures below the freezing point.

Frostbite Diagnosis

Frostbite can be diagnosed immediately based on existing environmental conditions and visible symptoms. To confirm the diagnosis, a physical examination may be done on the skin. If the affected region becomes white, hard, cold, and numb, frostbite is most invariably present. As the affected area begins to warm, the skin reddens, swells, and becomes very painful.

Frostbite Symptoms and Signs

Frostbite manifests as a distinctive discoloration of the skin, accompanied by numbness, burning sensations, and in most cases, intense pain. Frostbitten skin is cold to the touch and resembles burnt flesh - usually black, loose, and flayed in appearance. If untreated, frostbite on the skin may turn even darker, develop blisters within a matter of hours, and eventually destroy the skin completely. If the damage to affected areas is particularly severe, gangrene may occur. In such cases, amputation is almost invariable necessary.

Frostbite Treatment

The first step in treating frostbite is moving the victim to a warm location and seeking emergency medical assistance. Frostbitten skin should be thawed by soaking the area in warm water. In cases where this isn't possible, warmth may be conveyed via body to body contact. Warming the frostbitten skin is a top priority until the affected areas regain sensation or mobility. After this first line of treatment, the affected patient must be placed in a constantly warm location, as re-exposure to lower temperatures can cause further damage. In cases where frostbite damage has become too severe, usually with the appearance of gangrene, amputation of the affected region may be necessitated to prevent the damage from further spreading.

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