Blisters are often annoying,
painful, and uncomfortable. In most cases, they are indicative of nothing
serious and will heal without any medical intervention. Some infections can
cause skin blistering, which requires treatment, while in rare cases a skin
condition may produce blisters. If you ever have unexplained blistering on your
skin, you should see your doctor for a diagnosis.
A blister, which is also
called a vesicle by medical professionals, is a raised portion of skin that is
filled with fluid. You are probably familiar with blisters from wearing
uncomfortable shoes for too long. This common cause of blistering produces
vesicles when friction between your skin and the shoe causes layers of skin to
separate and fill with fluid.
If you know the cause of
your blister, you can treat it by covering it with bandages to keep it
protected and comfortable. Eventually the fluids will seep back in and the
blister will disappear. You should not puncture a blister unless it is very
painful, as the skin over the fluid protects you from infection. If you are not
sure why you have blistering, you should see your doctor.
Causes of Blisters
There are many temporary
causes of blisters:
occurs when something rubs against your skin for a prolonged period of time.
This happens most commonly on hands and feet.
- Contact dermatitis is a skin reaction to allergens, like poison ivy, latex, or adhesives,
or irritants, like chemicals or pesticides. It can cause red and inflamed skin,
and also blistering.
- Burns, if
severe enough, can produce blistering. This includes burns from heat,
chemicals, and sunburns.
- Allergic eczema is a skin condition that is caused or worsened by allergens and can
produce blisters. Another type of eczema, dyshidrotic eczema, also causes
blistering, but its cause is unknown. It tends to come and go.
Blistering can also be a
symptom of certain infections:
is a bacterial infection of the skin that can occur in both children and
adults, and sometimes shows up after a viral infection. Blisters are a symptom
is an infection caused by a virus. It produces itchy spots, and often blisters
on the skin.
or herpes zoster, is caused by the same virus that produces chickenpox. The
virus reappears in some people later in life and produces a skin rash with
- Herpes and
the resulting cold sores can cause skin blistering. This includes both herpes I
and II (which produces genital herpes).
is an infection caused by the Streptococcus
group of bacteria, which produces skin blisters as a symptom.
More rarely, blisters are
the result of a skin condition. For many of these rare conditions, the cause is
unknown. A few skin conditions that cause blisters include:
Treatment for Blisters
Most blisters require no
treatment. If you leave them alone, they will go away, and the top skin layers
prevent infection. If possible, you should refrain from puncturing or breaking them
open. Blisters caused by friction, allergens, and burns are temporary reactions
The blisters caused by
infections are also temporary, but they may require treatment. If you suspect
you may be suffering from some type of infection, you should see your doctor
for a diagnosis and treatment. In addition to medication for the infection,
your doctor may be able to give you something to treat the symptoms, including
If your blisters are caused
by a rare skin condition, there may be no cure. Even without a cure for a
particular condition, such as pemphigus, your doctor can guide you through
treatment options that reduce the symptoms, including blistering. This may
include steroid creams to relieve skin rashes or antibiotics to relieve skin
Prognosis for Blisters
In the majority of instances,
blisters are not part of a life-threatening condition. Most will go away
without treatment, but may cause you pain and discomfort in the meantime. If
you treat an infection that is causing blisters, your outlook is similarly
good. For rare skin conditions, how well treatments work will depend on each
Prevention of Friction Blisters
For the most common of
blisters—those caused by friction on the skin of your feet—you can practice basic
preventive measures. Always wear comfortable, well-fitting shoes. If you will
be walking for a long period of time, use thickly cushioned socks to reduce
friction. As you walk, you may feel a blister beginning to form. Stop and
protect this area of skin with a bandage to prevent further friction.