The Process of Blistering
Blisters can be very painful, so it’s hard to believe that they play a protective role, but that’s what they’re for. Blisters are an attempt by your skin to protect itself.
The process of blistering begins with a skin irritant of some sort. The most common is friction. When your skin is exposed to repeated friction, it becomes inflamed. This inflammation causes the layers of the skin to break apart, separating the outer layers of skin from the inner ones. Fluid flows into this space.
The fluid is partly protective, intended to provide a cushion in an area where injury has occurred. But the fluid also contains vital nutrients and other components that can help your body heal the injury.
Chemical agents and temperature are two other common causes of blisters.
In blood blisters, an injury to the skin has also damaged a blood vessel, causing the blister to fill up with blood.
Dangers of Blisters
Although blisters are a protective mechanism, they can lead to potentially serious complications. Your skin is your body’s primary protection against infection. When the skin is broken, your body is at risk of infection, and blisters themselves can become infected.
The fluid inside a blister should be clear. If it looks like the fluid inside the blister has turned yellowish, it has become infected. If you have an infected blister, you should see a doctor.
How to Treat a Blister
Most of the time, a blister should be left alone, unless it has become infected. Do not pop a blister. Remember, the blister may go halfway through your skin, making it very easy for bacteria to penetrate into your body. And the new skin under a blister is likely very fragile and tender. It could be broken more easily than your regular skin.
The best way to handle a blister is to remove the irritant and let the blister heal on its own. You can put a bandage over the blister to protect it and reduce discomfort. If the blister is extremely painful, you can pop it, but make sure you thoroughly wash the area and sterilize the tool you are using to pop the blister. For very large blisters, your doctor can help you figure out how to reduce irritation.
Once you cut into the blister, squeeze out the fluid, but keep the skin mostly intact. It can still serve to protect the younger skin underneath. If the fluid is yellow or has a foul odor, talk to your doctor about it.
It is not uncommon to develop calluses where you had blisters. Blistering signals your body that it needs thicker skin in this area, and it accommodates.
If you need help treating blisters or another common health condition, please contact Dr. Andy Fine, a primary care doctor in Littleton.