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Blisters are fluid filled pockets generally seen on the top layer of skin developed due to an injury or infection. It is commonly seen on feet and hands where the outer layer of skin is thicker. Such lesions are a natural response on damaged skin areas giving a cushioning effect, thereby preventing further harm to that area.
If the underlying factors are identified, this skin condition can be treated at home itself. This article takes a closer look at the various causes and ways to prevent foot blisters.
What causes foot blisters?
Feet is filled with nerves and blood vessels which are under pressure during physical activities. Be it running, walking or hitchhiking, we are all prone to develop blisters irrespective of the scale of activity. Foot blisters are very common and can be painful. It is essential to understand the factors that lead to this condition.
A friction blister is caused when skin is repeatedly rubbed against another surface or object. Such blisters are seen on fingers, soles and sides of toes and feet. The top part of a blister is thin and friction on this area causes an abrasion.
Contact, pressure and movement between skin and a surface leads to such blisters. A common scenario is when a person’s heels get rubbed against the surface of new shoes or sandals.
Footwear that do not fit
A wrong sized shoe or for that matter any footwear, can cause skin abrasions. Foot blisters are common when inappropriate footwear is worn for a long time, especially during walking or running.
Not tying laces tight enough or wearing old footwear can also cause blisters to form.
Moisture can increase friction and trigger foot blisters. Never leave your shoes outside overnight and if you put them in a closet, ensure that it is not damp. When moisture is high, the footwear material expands causing tightness when worn. This leads to friction that causes fluid filled bubbles to form.
Besides this, high perspiration causes moisture retention inside socks and shoes. This is very common with athletes and sports personnels. Using socks with breathable fabric and shoes with air passage characteristics can help prevent this.
Skin can be allergic to certain substances or foreign particles. When skin is exposed to poison or some chemicals, it can lead to contact dermatitis. Depending on the complexity of allergy, blisters of different size and shape can result.
As a rule of thumb, it is better to identify and avoid any such triggers.. Knowing what you are allergic to enables you to be prepared with the necessary medications in case of a sudden allergic reaction.
Exposure to sun for long can cause second-degree burns. Blistering can result from such burns. An existing blister becomes difficult to heal when exposed to sun. Hence it is important not to be dehydrated.
Other medical reasons
People with certain infectious diseases and disorders are prone to develop fluid filled lesions on their bodies. Such diseases weaken the outer layer of skin. Since feet receive pressure while moving around, the skin surface here is more prone to develop blisters. The below medical conditions are to be noted:
- Genital herpes
- Cold sores
- Chicken pox
- Bullous impetigo
- Other diseases affecting hand, mouth and foot
How to prevent foot blisters?
To prevent blisters on feet from walking, running or hiking, some practical steps can be taken:
Wear shoes that fit well
Footwear is one of the most common culprits that cause blisters. It is advisable to avoid wrong fitting shoes, or shoes that cramp or squeeze your feet. Some shoes can have increased friction even when the size is correct. This may settle down after using it for a while.
You should also consider if the type of footwear is suitable for the occasion you’re wearing it for. For example, going hiking in dress shoes can increase the risk of foot blisters.
Wear the right socks
Choosing the right pair of socks can help prevent foot blisters to some extent. Remember to choose socks that can expel moisture to keep feet dry. Socks should fit properly, not too tight or too loose.
Break your shoes in
New shoes might be ‘hard’ and uncomfortable to wear until you break them in. You can do so by wearing a pair of thick socks. Another way is to use a dryer to warm the footwear and allow it to cool, before wearing.
It is advisable to wear the new shoes within the comfort of your home first. Wearing it for a short duration will help familiarize the fit.
Ensure proper hygiene
Taking care of your feet is equally important. It is advisable to keep the skin on your feet clean and soft. This reduces the chances of developing blisters. Wash your feet properly while bathing, stay hydrated and make it a routine to use lotion or moisturizer on foot skin.
Replacing your socks regularly and washing your shoes every once in a while can also help to keep your feet free of germs and bacteria.
Keep your feet dry
Foot blisters which have not popped should be kept dry by covering it loosely with a bandage or by leaving it as such. Blisters seen on areas under pressure should be dealt with special bandages to keep the area dry and protect blisters from popping.
Avoid or stop activities causing symptoms
Blisters do not develop all of a sudden. You will feel discomfort in the area when a blister is forming. It is good to keep a check on symptoms. This can be done before doing any tedious physical task. Self-check is advisable especially when redness, itchiness, rashes or small abrasions are visible.
If a tight shoe or sandals injures your upper skin layer, remove it immediately. If you are allergic, be prepared with medicines in advance.
How to treat blisters?
Blisters are treated depending on the scale of damage. From soft bandages to routine hygiene, all are essential components of treatment.
Prevention is better than cure. This applies well here. Any skin condition should be given adequate attention before it becomes a significant problem. It is better to identify and avoid situations that may result in skin injuries.
The below recommendations are suggested in treating blisters on feet:
- Cover the blister: Use a bandage to loosely cover the affected area. Make sure the middle portion of the bandage is slightly raised to avoid further friction.
- Use padding: The bottom of your feet receives a lot of pressure. Blisters on such areas can be protected with padding. Make a donut shaped padding and place it in such a way that the hole is right above the top part of the blister. Use a bandage to cover the whole padding.
- Don’t pop or drain: It is not advisable to pop open or drain a blister. This can lead to infection. However, in certain cases, draining will help reduce discomfort and pain. Use a needle sterilized in rubbing alcohol to drain the blister. Never try inserting the needle multiple times from different sides as this may increase the injury.
- Keep it clean: Hygiene is the key to healthy feet. After draining excess fluid from the blister, wash your feet with soap and warm water. Applying petroleum jelly is advisable. Don’t remove the upper portion of the blister as this may expose the skin underneath.
Keep a close watch for any signs of infection. Look out for any redness, swelling, pain, discomfort or pus in the affected area. In such cases, immediately consult with your dermatologist.
How to treat blister ‘hot spots’?
Hotspots are areas of our body where blisters usually develop. As discussed earlier, hands and feet are often prone to such abrasions because of movement and friction. In most cases, slight symptoms develop at hotspots before a blister fully forms.
Identifying the actual cause can be helpful. Avoid scenarios that can worsen the situation. For example if a tight fitting shoe causes discomfort on the backside of your feet or if it causes too much friction while walking, avoid wearing it until you have broken it in. If your socks are drenched in rain, immediately remove them.
Hotspots are treated in a similar way as blisters are treated. If swelling, redness or small abrasions are noticed, clean the area immediately with soap and water. Apply a blister patch or bandage if necessary. Do not touch the area unnecessarily as it may worsen the condition.
We’ve all had to deal with blisters at least once and we know that blisters can be really uncomfortable and painful. To stop blisters from forming and to prevent existing blisters from worsening, it is ideal to understand root causes. Treatment should be given based on the factors identified. Never let your symptoms go unnoticed.