What are blisters?

 You are probably familiar with blisters if you’ve ever worn ill-fitting shoes for too long.

A blister is a painful skin condition where fluid fills a space between layers of the skin. 

The epidermis, dermis, and subcutaneous fat are the three layers that make up your skin. A fluid-filled sac known as a blister develops beneath the epidermis. Depending on the injury that caused the damage to your skin, it may typically be filled with clear liquid or blood.

Blisters may cause pain or itching. If a blister becomes infected, it will fill with pus that is white and milky. Blisters appear most frequently on the feet and hands, but they can appear anywhere on the body.

What causes blisters?

You can get blisters in several different ways, including some diseases. They can be caused by friction, infection or, in rare cases, a skin condition. The most common type of blisters include:

Blood blisters – Blood blisters may look red or black and are filled with blood instead of clear fluid.

When something pinches the skin, blood blisters can develop. Blood instead of clear liquid floods the area because of broken blood vessels and damage to the lower skin layers.

Friction blisters – Friction blisters result from rubbing on the skin and the accumulation of clear fluid in the upper layers of skin. Many people develop friction blisters as a result of excessive walking in ill-fitting shoes or by not wearing socks. You can also acquire them by holding shovels and other tools in your hands.

Heat blisters – These blisters can be caused by burns or sunburns. They may also appear after frostbite has healed. The skin blisters in a second-degree burn.

Do you need to consult a medical professional to look at your blister?

Blisters generally do not need a podiatrist to look at them. There are no tests or diagnostics for blisters. 

You may need to see one of our Podiatrists if:

  • A blister shows signs of infection such as pus, hot or painful area around the blister and/or red streaks around the blister.

An infected blister can be hot and filled with green or yellow pus.  The surrounding skin may look red, but this can be hard to see on darker skin tones.

  • If a blister is painful and keeps recurring, you might also need to see one of our Podiatrists: they will be able to identify and address the underlying cause. 
  • If you have diabetes, blisters can become a serious concern as they may not heal so easily.

What can a podiatrist do to treat the underlying problem that leads to recurrent blisters?

It is important to act immediately if you feel any friction or discomfort as blisters can form very quickly.  Stop walking or running and examine your feet and if nothing has developed.

We can further examine your feet and toenails. We may then, consider applying some material or padding to cushion the area, give you advice on your socks, footwear, suggest orthotics or even trim your toenails.

We might also assess your walking or running style.

If a blister becomes infected, we will need to determine the severity of the infection and provide you with additional guidance in the event of a secondary infection.


How can you prevent blisters?

There are several simple techniques that can prevent your walking, running or social activity being ruined by a blister:

  • Keep your feet dry and your toenails trimmed
  • Always wear socks of the right size as a cushion between your feet and footwear and change your socks daily
  • Wear comfortable, good-fitting footwear, especially on long walks or runs
  • For very sweaty feet, use products that help control excessive moisture
  • Immediately remove any foreign bodies that accumulate in socks and boots
  • Ensure the tongue and laces of your boots are arranged correctly and evenly
  • Check your feet regularly for any sign of rubbing and tenderness.

When buying socks, choose socks made of fibres with good ‘wicking’ properties. Alternatively, look for special ‘dual layer’ socks where the inner layer moves with the foot, and the outer layer with the shoe – these helps eliminate friction at the skin surface.


Click to download our leaflet: Better Ways to Keep Your Feet Healthy 

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