A common occurrence in people and often is a cause for much discomfort is the blister. Blisters are small fluid filled sacs that form in the epidermal (upper levels) of the skin as a response to pressure, sheer forces or trauma. Blisters can be painful, uncomfortable and in some cases can become the portals of infection or further tissue injury. Most people regularly pop and drain blisters which usually alleviates some discomfort however using unsterile techniques or instruments to lance the existent blisters can predispose the person to developing a skin infection. If the blister is left unpopped, the body naturally reabsorbs the fluid and the skin dries and flakes off.
Symptoms can come in a number of types which vary in shape, size, discomfort and exudate. This will largely depend on the nature of the cause. Generally, blisters will exhibit the following symptoms:
-Sore or uncomfortable lump that usually develops after long periods of being on your feet
-Lump usually contains fluid which can be felt by pressure.
-A red and tender skin patch.
-A point of burning or pain when weight bearing or wearing certain shoes.
Since they can vary in type, it is only natural for blisters to have a varied amount of causative agents. Sometimes the causes can be multiple and result in blisters that are long standing and require extensive work up. The general causes of blistering in the feet includes:
- Intermittent or constant pressure on the skin associated with:
-Tight or poorly fitted shoes
-Sock or shoe seams.
-Sand on skin surface
- Friction/Sheer forces due to:
-Overly tight or loose shoes
- Foot deformities and biomechanical factors such as:
-Overly flexible feet
-Feet that that tend to roll in (pronate)
- Reaction to irritants
- Autoimmune disease
Depending on the cause and nature of the blister, treatments can involve:
-Draining of the fluid (best practice is to do it under sterile conditions)
-Dressing of the lesion
-Offloading pressure areas using padding to help the skin recover
-Correction of any biomechanical causes like flat feet or hammertoes
-Antiviral or antibiotics for the treatment of any infections.
There are many ways in which blisters can be avoided. Some involve as little as a small change in every day activity whilst others require a little more investment for long standing relief. Methods of avoiding blisters includes but is not limited to:
-Avoiding tight or ill fitting shoes.
-Change socks regularly if feet are prone to excessive sweating.
-If you notice a sore spot immediately apply a bandaid to protect the area.
-Applying foot sprays or powder to reduce moisture and the risk of infections developing
-Avoid unnecessary skin contact with chemicals.
-Seek help from your doctor or podiatrist if blisters become painful.
- TIPS of the trade : Blisters are caused by excessive friction or excessive sweating. You need to identify which of those (or maybe both) are causing your blisters. Using two thin socks instead of one thick sock helps to absorb the pressure between the socks, rather than your skin and sock. Applying generous talcum powder on your feet helps to reduce the moisture content also.
If you or someone you know is suffering from blisters, keep in mind the importance of only draining the fluid under sterile conditions to avoid further injury and to seek help from a qualified podiatrist if the blister recurs or is sore enough to cause a disruption to the persons lifestyle.
Dr. Anel Kapur (Podiatrist)