Frostbite of the fingers is an injury that occurs when the skin and underlying tissues become frozen. In this two part article Detroit area hand doctor, Dr. Uzma Rehman discusses how to recognize frostbite – and how doctors diagnose and treat frostbite.
CLICK HERE to Learn the Signs and Symptoms of Frostbite of the Fingers .
When to see a Hand Doctor for Frostbite of the Fingers
If you were exposed the cold and have any of the following signs and symptoms of frostbite, it is important to see a hand doctor to prevent infection or long term damage to your fingers.
See a hand doctor for frostbite of the fingers if you have any of these symptoms of superficial or deep frostbite:
Increased pain in the area that was frostbitten
Increased swelling in the area that was frostbitten
Increased redness in the area that was frostbitten
Discharge in the area that was frostbitten
Any other new, unusual or unexplained symptoms
How Hand Doctors Diagnosis Frostbite in the Fingers
An experienced hand doctor will start by examining the appearance of your skin and other symptoms, and going over your recent activities that exposed you to the cold.
It may be necessary for the hand doctor to conduct certain clinical tests, such as an X-ray, a bone scan or an MRI to determine the severity of the frostbite. These tests can also identify if there is any damage to the bone or muscle.
Complications of severe frostbite can include infection, tissue death (necrosis) and long term nerve damage. So you should always see a hand doctor if you suspect you may have experienced frostbite.
How Hand Doctors Treat Frostbite in the Fingers
While minor frostnip can be treated at home with rewarming and basic first-aid, one should always see a doctor for superficial or deep (severe) frostbite.
If you haven’t done so already, your doctor will rewarm the fingers using a warm (not hot!) water bath for 15 to 30 minutes. The rewarming process can be painful, so your doctor may give you oral pain meds.
Once the fingers have thawed completely, the hand doctor may loosely wrap the area with sterile dressings to protect the skin. Patients should also elevate the frostbitten area to reduce any swelling.
In order to heal completely and properly, damaged, dead or infected tissue needs to be removed by a doctor – a process called debridement. To determine which tissue is healthy and which tissue is dead, the surgeon may need to wait from 1 to 3 months before surgically removing damaged tissue.
Other treatments for frostbitten fingers may include whirlpool therapy and physical therapy.
The doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics to fight or prevent infections. In severe cases the patient may require IVs of drugs that prevent blood clots and promote blood flow, such as tissue plasminogen activators (TPAs).
Different advanced wound care techniques – such as hyperbaric oxygen therapy – may be required, depending upon the severity of the frostbite. Patients suffering from severe frostbite may eventually need surgery – and in some cases even amputation – to remove dead or decaying tissue.
As you can see frostbite of the fingers, toes or anywhere on the body is a serious matter and should not be ignored.
Top Detroit Area Hand Doctor
If you are suffering from an injury or pain in your fingers, wrist, elbow or arm, contact board certified Detroit area hand surgeon Doctor Rehman for a comprehensive evaluation and consultation.
Your hands are vitally important to everything you do. Rapid detection, diagnosis, and treatment is the most effective way to ensure you heal completely, and do not suffer long term consequences.
Doctor Rehman will assess your individual condition, and offer the best state-of-the-art treatments that are best for your hand injury or illness.