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Blisters: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment And Prevention

A blister is a bubble filled with fluid that develops on the outer layer of the skin. Blisters are quite common and they can be painful and uncomfortable. They most often occur when you wear ill-fitting shoes, have burns or dermatitis and in rare cases, due to bacterial or viral infections of the skin like herpes simplex and impetigo [1].

In this article, we will discuss the causes, symptoms and treatment of blisters.

What Causes Blisters?

Blisters are referred to as vesicules (small blisters) and bullae (large blisters). These are some of the causes of blisters:

Wound dressings - Incorrect application of wound dressings can damage the skin, causing painful blisters [2].

Burns -Superficial partial-thickness burns cause the skin to become extremely pink, moist and very painful to touch. This can lead to the development of skin blisters in the affected area [3].

Contact dermatitis - It occurs when you are exposed to a substance that irritates your skin and triggers an allergic reaction. This causes the skin to become itchy, red and scaly, eventually forming blisters.

Eczema herpeticum - It is a chronic life-threatening infection caused by the herpes simplex virus-1. Patients who have this infection often experience blisters in widespread areas [4].

Impetigo - It is a common skin infection most frequently caused by the S. aureus bacteria that results in the formation of large blisters.

Frostbite - It is also known as freezing cold injury that damages the skin tissues due to cold exposure occurring at temperatures below zero degrees Celsius. This results in white blisters on the feet and hands.

Cold sores - Cold sores cause painful blisters that usually occur on one side of the lips. It is usually caused by herpes simplex type 1 virus, but it can also cause by herpes simplex type 2 virus [5].

Genital herpes - It is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) that causes the skin in the genital area to become inflamed and painful and lead to the formation of small blisters. The blisters develop in small clusters and can burst and ooze out fluid [6].

Shingles - It is a viral disease that causes inflammation and blisters on the skin [7].

Erysipelas - It is a type of bacterial skin infection that affects the upper layers of the skin and leads to the development of painful blisters.

Rarely, blisters are the result of skin conditions like porphyria, pemphigus, pemphigoid, dermatitis herpetiformis and epidermolysis bullosa.

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Symptoms Of Blisters

Depending on the cause, blisters may appear as a localised bubble that may gradually fill with clear fluid or blood or may appear in one area or all over the body. They can be painful, red and itchy and can often accompany with symptoms such as fever or fatigue.


When To See A Doctor

Consult your doctor if the blister shows signs of pus or if it becomes red and swollen, if you have fever, if you have multiple blisters and if the blister is continuously oozing out fluid. The doctor will then diagnose blisters by looking at your skin.

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Treatment Of Blisters

Blisters often heal on their own. However, if it's caused due to a serious skin condition then medications such as steroid creams to relieve skin rashes or topical antibiotics to cure skin infections are prescribed by the doctor that helps in faster healing of the blisters [8], [9].

To reduce pain and discomfort, here are some general guidelines for first aid for blisters that are caused by friction or burns.

• Wash the affected area with soap and water.

• Apply a cold ice pack on the area to reduce swelling and pain.

• Ensure that the area is clean and dry.

• Avoid bursting or popping the blister.

• If the blister accidentally bursts open, cover it with a dressing or adhesive bandage to keep it clean.

• If you notice drainage, extreme pain and swelling, consult a doctor immediately.


Prevention Of Blisters

Here are some tips to prevent the blisters caused by friction:

• Wear shoes that fit you properly.

• If you walk for longer periods, wear thick cushioned socks.

• Consider using soft bandages.

• Apply powder or petroleum jelly in the areas where the skin rubs together.

• If you experience pain and discomfort or redness on the skin, stop your activity immediately.

Common FAQs

Q. What causes blisters on the skin?

A. The most common causes of blisters are friction, freezing, burns and infections.

Q. How do you treat blisters on your face?

A. Apply yogurt, milk, apple cider vinegar, coconut oil and green tea on your face to treat blisters.

Q. How can I speed up the healing of a blister?

A. Allow the blister to heal on its own, keep the area clean and dry and avoid popping it.

Q. How long do blisters take to heal?

A. Most blisters go away on their own after three to seven days and don't need any medical attention.

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