A blister is a bubbled-up area in the top layer of your skin. This bubble can be filled with blood, pus, clear serum or plasma. Several different things can cause blisters and while they usually show up as a single blister, they sometimes form in clusters of blisters.
What Causes Blisters?
There are several different types of blisters and they all have different causes.
Here we will discuss the most common causes of blisters…
- Friction Blisters
If your shoes don't fit well and continuously rub your feet throughout the day, or you forget to put on a pair of work gloves before you begin raking the yard, there will be prolonged friction between an object (like the shoes or a rake, in our examples) and your skin. This friction will cause your skin to become inflamed and irritated which then tears the top layers of your skin leaving a gap in between the layers. Your body wants to protect the skin so it sends fluid into this gap to provide extra cushioning. In this manner, a friction blister is formed.
- Contact Dermatitis Blisters
This type of blistering is caused by the skin's reaction to a chemical of some sort. Some people experience this blistering as an allergic reaction to some kind of soap, lotion or cosmetic. Plants like poison ivy or poison oak can cause blistering reactions when they come into contact with the skin. Other people will experience blistering after being bitten or stung by an insect. Come people who work with volatile chemical compounds are affected by them and experience blistering reactions.
- Temperature Blisters
You probably know that when the skin gets excessively hot, it will burn and these burns will blister the skin. The body can experience burns of varying intensity and one of the ways the intensity is determined is by how much time passes between the skin being burn and the body forming blisters. Did you know that the skin can also become blistered as a result of extreme cold or frostbite as well?
- Fever Blisters
Fever blisters are also known as cold sores and a form of the herpes simplex virus causes these.
- Blood Blisters
If you have ever crushed or pinched your skin in something, you might have experienced a blood blister. These blisters form when a small blood vessel near the surface of the skin is broken and the blood from this vessel leaks into a tear in between the skin layers.
- Blisters from Illness
Viral illnesses like shingles, chickenpox and hand-foot-and-mouth disease can result in blistering. Chickenpox and shingles can both cause blistering of the skin as the virus runs its course. Hand-foot-and-mouth disease causes blistering on the hands and feet as well as in the mouth. Additionally, there are several other medical conditions that can result in blistering on the body.
As you can imagine, with so many different types of blisters, there are a variety of options when it comes to treating each one and preventing them from occurring again. Today we will be discussing both how to address these types of blisters once they have formed, as well as how to stop them from occurring in the first place.
- Friction Blisters
By far the most common type of blister is the friction blister. Just about everyone has experienced one of these, and they are generally found on the foot, especially the heel.
As discussed above, friction blisters are the result of something causing friction against your skin. This friction can be the result of shoes that are too tight or too loose, or by not taking preventative measures before engaging in activities in which friction will occur. Often, this blister-causing friction can be compounded by skin that is moist from something like sweat.
- Treatment of Friction Blisters
There are many things you can do to alleviate the pain of friction blisters. Medical professionals suggest you avoid popping the blister at all costs. The purpose of the blister is to provide cushioning to the skin that is underneath it as well as protecting your injured skin from bacteria and infection.
Cover the blister with a small bandage to give it even more protective cushioning but make sure the bandage is porous and that it will allow the blister to breathe.
Sometimes you will find that you absolutely need to deal with the blister by draining the liquid from it. Again, this should be your last resort. To do this the right way and prevent other problems from arising, there are some simple steps you need to follow…
- Thoroughly wash your hands with warm water and soap, and gently cleanse the blister and surrounding area as well
- Clean the area surrounding the blister with alcohol to ensure cleanliness
- Find a clean, sharp needle and sterilize it with alcohol
- Using gentle pressure, use the needle to poke a few holes around the edge of the blister. The fluid that is inside the blister should drain out but you can apply gentle pressure if necessary. Do not remove the skin that is protecting the area
- Rub a thin layer of antibiotic cream on the blister and cover it with a clean bandage
- After a few days, you can remove the dead skin and apply more cream and a new bandage
The goal is to drain the fluid while not damaging the skin any further. Make sure your hands, the blistered area and all your tools are clean, and do not pull on the damaged skin while doing this. Remember that draining your blister should be done only if you are in a lot of pain and unable to go about your normal day because of the blister.
- Preventing Friction Blisters
As with most things, the best treatment is prevention and this is certainly the case when it comes to friction blisters as well.
If you find that you mostly get blisters on your feet, you might be wearing the wrong shoe size. Make sure that your shoes are well fitting and comfortable. Consider having your feet sized at a shoe store so that you can ensure you've got the right fit. Dress shoes and high heels will commonly result in blisters no matter how well they fit your feet.
If you have sweaty feet, make sure you choose socks that are moisture wicking, or that you change socks frequently to avoid the moisture buildup that can lead to excessive friction and blistering.
If you are hiking or participating in other sports where there is a higher risk of friction between your feet and your shoes, make sure that your shoes have been broken in before you set out on your adventure. Also make sure you are wearing socks suitable for the activity you are planning to enjoy.
As for friction blisters on the hands, these are most common when gardening or working out.
To prevent blisters from forming when doing yard work, make sure you've got a good pair of work gloves on to provide extra cushioning between your yard tool and your skin.
If you will be participating in an activity such as weightlifting or gymnastics, you can wear special gloves or tape your hands in a special way to prevent blistering.
Many people also find that using a product like talcum powder helps to lower the friction that results in blisters. You can use this powder inside your shoes or your gloves. While it may seem counterintuitive - because the powder is a lubricant that can sometimes increase friction - these types of products are ideal for reducing friction for a period of time. These powders absorb moisture that can lead to painful blisters.
Contact Dermatitis Blisters
Our skin is our largest organ and sometimes it can be acutely sensitive. Many things like cosmetics or soaps as well as plants can irritate our skin, causing pain and discomfort.
This can manifest as a rash, swelling, itchy welts on the skin and even blisters.
- Treating Contact Dermatitis Blisters
While this sort of thing is not contagious, it can still pose several problems. Not only will you be uncomfortable, itchy and in pain, it's not pleasant to look at either.
If you've had an allergic reaction to something and it has resulted in your skin blistering, you need to get it treated. If the blisters open, the skin below will be susceptible to bacteria that can cause infections like impetigo.
Your doctor might prescribe ointments or lotions to help heal the blisters and ease the pain. If the blisters are sizeable, your doctor might drain them and bandage them. To heal and ease the pain, itching and swelling that comes with an allergic reaction, you can use a damp cool cloth on the affected areas.
- Preventing Contact Dermatitis Blisters
To prevent this from becoming an issue, the easiest thing you can do is avoid whatever it is that causes your skin to have an allergic reaction. Sometimes, though, this is far easier said than done.
First, you need to try to figure out what is causing this reaction. Have you tried a new shampoo? New laundry detergent? New makeup or lotion? If so, try removing that product from your daily routine and see if the problem clears up. If it does, you have found the culprit and can now avoid it.
If you have tried to determine what is causing your issue by eliminating the usage of certain cosmetics, soaps and other products but you are still experiencing the allergic reaction, it's time to speak with your doctor.
You doctor can run tests to determine if your allergic reaction is being caused by something in your environment. Knowing what is causing your reaction is important, because without having that knowledge you cannot remove it from your life and alleviate the symptoms.
A blood blister is really no different from any other blister aside from the fact that the gap in the skin layers has been filled with blood rather than some other fluid.
- Treating Blood Blisters
Generally, blood blisters need no treatment and they go away on their own, but sometimes you may need to help them along.
To help the blood blister heal, make sure you leave it alone as much as possible. Keep it covered with a bandage.
When dealing with friction blisters, it is sometimes ok to drain the blister. You should not do that with a blood blister though. Just leave it alone and it will heal.
If it becomes a problem though, be sure to speak with your doctor as they will have other options available for treatment.
- Preventing Blood Blisters
There really isn't much you can do to prevent a blood blister from occurring as they are usually the result of accidental pinches.
Fever blisters are different as they tend to show up in clusters rather than as a solitary blister. They generally appear near the lips, but will sometimes appear on the gums or the tongue.
These fever blisters will look like small wounds and they will release a clear fluid. After a few days, they will scab over and begin to heal. While the wound is open, these fever blisters are highly contagious.
- Treating Fever Blisters
To treat fever blisters you have several options ranging from homeopathic to prescription grade remedies.
You can use witch hazel or apple cider vinegar to try to dry out the area where the blister occurs. Witch hazel can help with inflammation as well and will help reduce the swelling. Apple cider vinegar has been shown to have antifungal properties that might help kill the germs causing the fever blister.
If your fever blisters are really bad and don't heal quickly or respond to at home methods of treatment, it might be time to speak with your doctor about other methods of getting rid of them. Your doctor can assess the fever blisters and prescribe medications that will help to clear them up.
- Preventing Fever Blisters
Fever blisters are hard to prevent as they are caused by an extremely common strain of the herpes simplex virus.
Some things that can trigger fever blisters are stress, being overly tired, depression and more. When your immune system is weakened, it is easier for a dormant virus to attack and cause problems.
The best thing you can do to prevent fever blisters from occurring is to stay healthy.
Remember too that fever blisters are indeed contagious, so make sure your mouth isn't having contact with anyone else's body while your fever blisters are healing.
There are many other types of blisters as well, but they are less common and will likely need medical intervention to be properly treated.
The types of blisters discussed here are the most common, and can be easily treated without the need to seek medical assistance.
We hope you found this information useful and come back soon!