Blisters can occur for numerous reasons. Although they are not often serious, the appearance of blisters itself can be very off-putting. A blister is a fluid-filled bubble that develops under the skin. The watery liquid under the blister is often clear, which is called serum.
When blisters break, the serum leaks from the tissues surrounding the injured skin. Smaller blisters are known as vesicles while larger blisters are known as bullae. Sometimes, an individual may be affected by a blister that contains blood instead of serum. If the blister is filled with blood, it is known as a blood blister.
What causes blisters?
Blisters may develop due to the following causes:
1. Skin Irritation
Blisters can develop and usually involve irritation to the skin such as rubbing, exposure to chemicals, or acute temperature changes. Blisters that develop on the feet could be the result of wearing shoes that are either too tight or shoes that constantly rub a specific area of the foot while walking.
Blisters can also occur due to skin conditions like dermatitis, which is a skin reaction that occurs due to exposure to a chemical irritant. Extreme cold can also lead to frostbite, which could cause blisters to develop once the skin is warmed again. Any form of burns, including sunburns, could lead to the development of blisters.
2. Allergic Reactions
Allergic reactions that occur with dermatitis or eczema can also lead to blisters. Allergy-triggered blisters can occur due to an allergy that is caused by a chemical or contact with poisonous plants such as poison ivy.
3. Skin Infections
A number of infections can also trigger blisters. One of the infections that can lead to blister development is bullous impetigo, which is an infection that occurs due to Staphylococci (staph) bacteria.
Viral infections that affect the lips or the genital areas such as herpes simplex virus, chickenpox, and shingles occur due to the varicella-zoster virus. Coxsackievirus infections, which occur during childhood, often cause blisters.
4. Skin Diseases
A number of skin diseases can also cause blisters. Some of these diseases include dermatitis herpetiformis, pemphigoid, and pemphigus. There are also several inherited forms of blisters that are caused by skin diseases. One of these diseases is epidermolysis bullosa, in which trauma or pressure to the skin leads to the development of blisters.
How to Recognize a Blister
A blister can be recognized by its mere appearance. Blisters are round or oval-shaped bubbles that contain fluid or serum within the skin. Blisters can be painful, itchy, or may display no symptoms at all in some cases.
The symptoms of blisters often depend on what caused them to develop.
1. Skin Irritation
Blisters that occur due to friction or burns can be extremely painful. However, blisters that occur due to eczema are often accompanied by redness of the skin, itching, or small bumps.
2. Skin Infections
When blisters occur due to skin infections, the symptoms that appear depend on what is causing the infection.
- Bullous impetigo: The skin affected by the infection can become red. In this condition, the blisters may suddenly burst.
- Herpes simplex virus: When the root cause of the infection is herpes simplex virus type 1, small blisters appear, which are commonly called "fever blisters". These blisters are also known as cold sores. Fever blisters usually appear around the lip region and may cause itching, tingling, redness, and inflammation as the blisters begin to develop. Fluid leaks when the blisters break. It then leads to the occurrence of painful sores. Herpes simplex virus type 2 is the more common infection that leads to genital herpes, which is a sexually transmitted infection (STI). Normally, the infection causes tiny red bumps to appear before the blisters develop. This form of blisters usually affects the penis, thighs, and the genital area.
- Coxsackievirus: This virus can cause the medical condition called hand, foot, and mouth disease (HFMD). In this condition, the blisters develop in the hands, soles of the feet, and mouth.
- Skin diseases: Skin diseases like erythema multiform often cause blisters that appear on the palm of the hands, the soles of the feet, eyes, nose, and mouth. Other signs and symptoms of the disease include fever, sore throat, cough, and muscular pain.
- Medications: Response to certain medications may vary. In a few cases, having an increased sensitivity to the sun often leads to blistering sunburns whenever the skin is sun-exposed. However, in severe cases, such as toxic epidermal necrolysis, blisters tend to develop in large tissue areas, which include respiratory passages and the GI tract. The condition is also accompanied by general malaise and fever.
Natural Treatments for Blisters
Blisters can occur at any time with or without a specific cause. However, if you think you could be prone to developing blisters, it is best to have certain precautions to avoid them and have some simple home remedies handy to help you treat blisters when they occur. The following are some natural remedies to treat blisters:
- Aloe vera gel: Aloe vera gel is used to treat numerous skin conditions. It is also one of the most effective methods of treating blisters. Aloe has natural anti-inflammatory properties that can help relieve inflammation and redness that occurs with blisters.
- Apple cider vinegar: Soaking the blister or dabbing it with some apple cider vinegar works great to eliminate the infection that is causing the blister. It also prevents the blisters from worsening.
- Black tea: Black tea is not only a great antioxidant for your body, but it also works well in soothing blisters and when it comes to reducing inflammation. Alternatively, you can also dab in green tea bags soaked in warm water to soothe the blisters.
- Tea tree oil: Known for its antibacterial properties, tea tree oil is a great remedy to prevent blisters from worsening and helps in naturally curing blisters. Since tea tree oil has some astringent properties, stop using it if it irritates your skin.
Do not attempt to pop the blister because the skin that covers the blister protects it from any type of infection. You can carefully wash the affected area using mild soap and water. Pat your skin dry before applying an antibacterial cream. After the application, cover the blister with a gauze to protect your skin against infection. Make sure to change the dressing at least once daily and try to wear a different footwear until your blister heals.