Steven Doerr, MD
Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.
Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
Dr. Charles "Pat" Davis, MD, PhD, is a board certified Emergency Medicine doctor who currently practices as a consultant and staff member for hospitals. He has a PhD in Microbiology (UT at Austin), and the MD (Univ. Texas Medical Branch, Galveston). He is a Clinical Professor (retired) in the Division of Emergency Medicine, UT Health Science Center at San Antonio, and has been the Chief of Emergency Medicine at UT Medical Branch and at UTHSCSA with over 250 publications.
In this Article
- Frostbite and cold weather-related injuries facts
- Introduction to frostbite and cold weather-related injuries
- What type of injuries can be caused by cold weather?
- What are the signs and symptoms of frostbite?
- What are cold weather-related injuries without tissue freezing?
- Trench foot
- Frostbite: Cold weather-related injuries with tissue freezing
- What does frostbite look like (frostbite pictures)?
- How should frostbite and other cold weather-related injuries be treated?
- What is the recovery time for a frostbite injury?
- When should a person seek medical care for a cold weather-related injury?
- Who is most likely to get a cold weather-related injury and what can be done to prevent it?
Frostbite: Cold weather-related injuries with tissue freezing
Frostbite occurs when there is freezing of body tissue, and it is the most serious of the cold weather-related injuries. Frostbite usually affects the hands, feet, nose, ears, and cheeks, though other areas of the body may also be affected. This type of injury results from decreased blood flow and heat delivery to body tissues resulting in damaging ice crystal formation, which ultimately leads to cell death. Upon rewarming of the affected tissue, vascular damage and complex cellular metabolic abnormalities lead to tissue death.
Damage to tissue is most pronounced when there is prolonged cold weather exposure, the affected area slowly freezes, and the subsequent rewarming process is slow. Repeated thawing and refreezing of the affected tissue is particularly damaging, and should always be avoided.
Frostbite injuries can be classified as either superficial or deep, depending on the tissue depth of injury.
- Superficial frostbite injuries involve the skin and subcutaneous tissues.
- Deep frostbite injuries extend beyond the subcutaneous tissues and involve the tendons, muscles, nerves, and even bone.
Superficial frostbite injuries have a better prognosis than deep frostbite injuries.
What does frostbite look like (frostbite pictures)?
The appearance of frostbite may gradually change over time; the extent of the change depends on how severely the tissue is damaged. Figure 1 shows a hand with severe frostbite changes at the tips of the fingers and thumb (dark to black-appearing tissue) that gradually decreases in severity on the digits.
Figure 1. Frostbite on digits and thumb
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