Frostbite and Cold Weather-Related Injuries

  • Medical Author:
    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.

  • Medical Editor: Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD
    Charles Patrick Davis, MD, PhD

    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.

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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.

Frequent Urination Symptoms

Even though there are numerous causes for frequent urination, the symptoms are generally the same. Below are some terms that are used to describe symptoms that may accompany frequent urination.

  • Frequency: urinating more than eight times during the day or more than once overnight
  • Hesitancy: incomplete evacuation of the bladder during each episode of urination. There may be a sudden stoppage of the urine flow due to spasms in the bladder or urethra or there may be difficulty starting the flow of urine.
  • Urgency: the uncomfortable feeling of pressure in the bladder that makes you feel you have to go "right now"
  • Urinary incontinence: the inability to control the flow of urine, leading to either constant or intermittent accidental leakage
  • Dysuria: pain or burning sensation during or immediately following urination. This may be a sign of a urinary tract infection.
  • Hematuria: Blood in the urine can be small amounts, clots, or very bloody. This will usually cause the urine to appear darker in color.
  • Nocturia: This is having to wake up to urinate. It can also be associated with nighttime urinary incontinence. (In children, this includes wetting the bed.)
  • Polyuria: frequent daytime urination
  • Dribbling: After finishing urination, urine continues to drip or dribble out.
  • Straining: having to squeeze or bear down to initiate the urine stream

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

Picture of the Stages of Frostbite
Picture of the Stages of Frostbite
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/23/2016

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