From ArticleWorld

Frostbite is a medical condition characterized by damage to the skin and underlying tissues due to exposure to extreme cold. Known as congelatio in medical jargon, frostbite is associated with hypothermia, but it is not identical to it.

Risk factors associated to frostbite are beta-blockers, low peripheral blood speed and peripheral neuropathy.

Symptoms and signs

Frostbite is usually signaled by a discoloration of skin, with burning or tingling sensations and numbness. Intense pain is also present in some cases.

If the affected tissues include nerves or blood vessels, and they are severely damaged, a gangrene may appear and, if it is extremely severe, amputation may be needed.

Untreated skin affected by frostbite begins to darken and, after eventually, if completely destroyed, becomes completely black, flayed and loose, as if it had been burnt.

First aid and treatment

The first thing that should be done is moving the victim to a warmer and safe area. If hypothermia is present, it should be treated first. Wrap the damaged areas with cloths if medical treatment can be administrated soon. If it is not possible to keep the damaged areas thawed, further treatment should not occur, because a second frostbite to an already affected area can cause more severe damage or complications.

Further treatment should consist of placing the affected area in warm (but not hot) water until the affected areas become softer and stimuli in that area produce sensations again. Wrap the damaged area in soft and sterile cloth after that. Try to reach medical help as soon as possible.

Do not expose the affected areas to sudden changes of temperature. If they have not been severely damaged and temperature change is unavoidable, try to massage the area with snow or cold (but not extremely cold) water.


  • ICD-10 code: T33-T35
  • ICD-9 code: 991.0-991.3