How is frostbite diagnosed?

There are no simple tests to tell how badly you’ve been frostbitten. Typically, your healthcare provider will diagnose frostbite by looking at the area, asking you about how long (and in what temperatures) you were out in the cold, and monitoring your symptoms over time. Depending on how severe your frostbite is, your provider may need to take an X-ray or use another imaging method.

During the physical exam, your provider will look to see if your skin turns white or red, gets blisters or turns black (the tissue dies). Clear blisters often mean the damage to your skin is temporary, but blood-filled blisters mean the damage is long-term. If your skin turns black but doesn’t shed, a surgeon will probably have to remove it to prevent gangrene.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/21/2020.


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