Sometimes the things that are meant to protect us aren’t the most comfortable. A haz-mat suit, for example, is not the height of mobility or fashion, but you wouldn’t want to go into a toxic situation without one. A blister is the same way: it might be annoying, but it’s there to protect the skin beneath.
The majority of blisters are a natural response to some form of injury or irritation to the skin. The body reacts by creating a bubble of fluid to cushion and protect the skin beneath from further damage.
The most common causes of one appearing, especially on the foot, are friction or a burn. Friction often comes from a sock or footwear repeatedly rubbing against the skin for a relatively brief, intense time. Low levels of friction over longer periods of time usually result in corns and calluses instead. A burn, on the other hand, can come from prolonged exposure to the sun or being unfortunate enough to step on a hot surface or pour something caustic on the feet.
There are a few other potential causes of blistering. Seeing multiple blisters in the same area might be a sign of an allergic reaction, such as to poison ivy or a new detergent used on your socks. It might also be a reaction to a medication or a sign of disease. If you develop a blister or blisters with no obvious cause while on medication, you should consult a doctor.
How to Treat a Blister
To the question most people inevitably want to know about blisters: is it OK to pop them? The answer really depends on the situation. If it isn’t causing too much pain and isn’t in a place where it is very likely to tear open on its own (such as on the bottom of the feet), then it’s best to let nature provide its own form of protection.
There are other times, however, when a blister is just too large to be able to move around with it comfortably, or it’s just better to perform a safe, controlled draining than for it to bust open on its own. If that’s the case, here’s what to do.
NOTE: Never try to self-treat a blister if you have diabetes or an auto-immune disease. The risks of complications and infection are simply too great. Please see us at Family Foot Care & Surgery for professional treatment.
- Wash your hands, and gently wash the blister, with warm water and soap.
- Apply iodine to the blister, if available.
- Sterilize a clean, sharp needle with rubbing alcohol (don’t use a flame).
- Gently puncture the blister in several spots near its edge and carefully guide the fluid out.
- Leave the overlying skin in place. It’s still providing protection.
- Apply an antibiotic ointment such as Neosporin, then cover with a non-stick bandage. Change the bandage and ointment daily.
The best form of treatment, of course, is preventing blisters in the first place. Reducing friction is key, and that includes wearing shoes that fit well. Moisturizing your feet to prevent drying also helps, but so does wearing moisture-wicking socks to prevent too much moisture from pooling against and weakening the skin.
If blisters are bothering you consistently, however, it’s time to seek help and solutions. Dr. Sanjay Patel and the staff at Family Foot Care & Surgery can determine the causes behind your blisters and provide the means to treat them and prevent their return. Contact our offices in Milford at (203) 876-7736 or Hamden at (203) 288-4055 and we can help you get started.