Beating Blisters: What You Need to Know
When you think of blisters on feet, what comes to mind? Running a 5K with painful heels? Breaking in a new pair of hiking boots? While these often cause friction blisters, they are not the only reason these fluid-filled bumps can form on your skin. Let’s take a look at what happens with a blister, and what you can do to prevent and treat one.
Why Skin Bubbles Form
Your skin is an amazing organ. The top layer is your body’s first line of defense against damage to tender tissues underneath. It keeps bacteria out and fluids in, and guards against harm from heat, cold, and abrasions. When something tries to breach the barrier, your body may react by rushing extra fluid and white blood cells into the skin layers to fight infection. The top layer can separate from deeper layers, and fluid can collect between them and form small bubbles of skin.
Many factors can overwhelm your skin barrier and cause blisters to form. These can be internal problems, such as diseases like chicken pox or eczema or reaction to medications you take. However, the cause more often comes from outside factors such as burns, frostbite, or exposure to strong soaps, chemicals, personal care products, or plants like poison ivy—and of course friction from your shoes.
Steps to Prevent Blisters on Feet
First of all, protect them. Footwear provides an extra defense against bacteria and viruses that can cause symptoms like blistering. It also helps protect against contact with dangerous factors like plant poisons, chemicals at work, or sunburn.
Footwear can be a problem, however, if it doesn’t fit properly or causes irritation in certain spots. Choose roomy shoes, but not so large that your feet slide around in them. Poorly-fitted shoes and lacing techniques are reasons runners get blisters, as any hotspot endures extra friction and shear with all those miles you log. As a blister begins to form, you may notice a brief feeling of heat. This is your warning siren. If you heed it and immediately protect the area with zinc tape or adhesive bandages to protect the tender skin in that area, you may be able to prevent a blister from forming. Some runners carry a prevention packet with them as they work out.
Besides fitting shoes properly, make sure you keep them as clean as possible and let them dry out between uses so bacteria doesn’t have a chance to hide inside. Keep your feet clean and dry, too. Washing them every day helps rid them of bacteria and viruses that could enter tiny cuts or abrasions and cause infections that blister, such as athlete’s foot or dermatitis.
If medications or personal care products are causing skin irritations and blisters, look for alternatives. Wear sunscreen to keep harmful sun rays away, and use antifungal products on feet and shoes if you are prone to those types of infections.
To Pop or Not to Pop?
There are differing opinions about whether or not to puncture a blister and drain it. We believe that in most cases it is best to leave the infection-fighting fluid and top layer of skin intact—nature’s own antibiotic and dressing, if you will. You can clean around it with water and mild soap, and cover it with a bandage to keep dirt and bacteria away. Eventually the fluid will be resorbed and the skin flap will slough off.
However, for very large blisters that are painful and prone to bursting anyway, come in and let our foot experts safely drain it for you. This can help prevent an infection from having it burst on its own in an unsanitary place.
Experts on Foot Blisters…and So Much More
Aadvanced Foot Care Associates can treat all your foot problems from blisters to heel pain with the latest in technology and treatment protocols. We also have three convenient office locations in the Queens/Nassau County area. Call us at (718) 896-4433 in Rego Park, (516) 822-9595 in Plainview, or (718) 969-2266 in Flushing to have your painful blister attended to, or request an appointment right on our website.