Blisters – Types and causes & treatments.
What are blisters?
A blister is a bubble of fluid under the epidermis (outer layer of skin). The fluid within the blister most commonly will be clear, but sometimes it may contain blood or ‘infected pus’.
There are many possible causes of blisters including;- burns, disease, allergic reaction, but the most commonly seen blisters are a result of skin friction. Blisters caused by friction most commonly occur on feet or hands.
How do they occur?
You might get blisters on your feet if your shoes or socks don’t fit well and rub uncomfortably. Athletes and hikers often get foot blisters. Blisters usually occur at the start of a new sports season or exercise program, after wearing new shoes, or when the weather is hot and humid.
What are the symptoms ?
When the skin becomes irritated, fluid collects underneath the outer layer of skin. This can be quite painful. The surrounding area could be red, sore, or swollen. Blisters can be very small or quite large. Most blisters are filled with clear fluid. If the fluid is bloody it usually means that a lot of force caused the blister. If the blister is filled with pus it is probably infected. The blister as well as the tissue around the blister can get infected. Infected blisters are very painful, they might be swollen and hot. If the infection is well established, you could even have a fever.
How are they treated ?
It is best to leave most small blisters alone. They should be kept clean and covered with an antiseptic or antibiotic ointment and a bandage on top. Putting a little petroleum jelly around an unbroken blister (or the part of a shoe that causes the irritation) can reduce the friction.
You can also use moleskin to protect a blister. You can buy moleskin at a regular pharmacy. Use the moleskin to make a “blister donut” over/around the blister. Do this by cutting a hole in a piece of moleskin that is bigger than the blister. Then put the moleskin on your skin with the “donut hole” around the blister. Cover the moleskin with a tape bandage.
Blisters usually drain by themselves. The overlying skin is a natural protective layer. It should be left in place until it is very dry and the underlying skin has become tough and painless. Then you can trim off the layer of dry skin. Large blisters might need to be drained (patricularly if they are likely to burst anyhow). It is important to do this in a way that does NOT cause an infection. When drained, cover the area with an antiseptic / antibiotic ointment & a bandage. If you have a blister that has become infected, you need to see your podiatrist or doctor (GP.). An antibiotic cream might be sufficient or oral anitibotics could prescribed if the infection is well established.
How do I prevent blisters?
Try to minimize rubbing against your skin using the following guidelines:
1. Make sure that your shoes fit well.
2. Don’t wear wet shoes or socks.
3. Try wearing two pairs of fine socks to ease friction against your feet
Some blister images & causes .
Foot Health Matters is a HCPC Registered Podiatry Practice in South Belfast. Northern Ireland BT10 0DR Tel: 028-90-611619.