How Blisters Form and How to Treat Them
What are blisters, exactly? Blisters are areas of raised skin with a watery-type liquid inside. You'll commonly see blisters on your hands or feet -- they happen because of repeated rubbing, friction and pressure. For example, if you're wearing a new pair of shoes and the shoe rubs constantly against the back of your heel, you'll likely form a blister.
Here's how it happens. A red area called a hot spot precedes your blister. As your heel rubs against the shoe -- or a strap rubs against your foot -- the skin becomes irritated and inflamed. This causes a tear to occur within the top layers of your skin, leaving a gap between the layers. Your body sends fluid to fill up this space, in order to protect it. Think of it like a small balloon under the top layer of your skin, cushioning the skin beneath.
Blisters tend to occur more often when the skin is sweaty and slipping around, which is why we seem to get more blisters in the summer. However, ill-fitting shoes also cause painful blisters. If your high-heeled shoes cause your feet to slide down to the front, putting pressure on your toes, chances are you're going to get some friction against the heel as you walk. We'll give you some tips on avoiding this phenomenon later in the article.
So, you've got a blister. Now what? Doctors recommend you try to keep the blister intact. This means no popping -- no matter how tempting it may be. Remember, the blister is there to protect your skin. It guards your injured skin from coming into contact with bacteria and becoming infected. Cover it with a small bandage. If the blister is too big for a standard-sized bandage, cover it with a porous, nonstick gauze that will allow the blister to breathe.
Sometimes, though, a blister may be quite painful and even prohibit you from wearing any shoes at all. If you do need to drain the blister -- and this should be your last resort -- here's how to do it safely. (Please note: If you have poor circulation or diabetes, consult a doctor before self-treating a blister.)
To relieve a painful blister, you should drain the fluid but leave the skin intact. This isn't for the squeamish, we might add.
- First, wash your hands and the blister with warm water and soap.
- Swab the blister and area with iodine or rubbing alcohol.
- Sterilize a clean and sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
- Gently puncture the blister in a few spots near the blister edge. Let the fluid drain (applying very gentle pressure if necessary) and do not remove the overlying skin.
- Immediately apply an antibiotic ointment to the area and cover with a bandage or gauze.
- After several days, you can cut away the dead skin using sterilized scissors and tweezers.
- Apply more ointment and a bandage or gauze.
- Always call your doctor if you see signs of infection around a blister -- redness, pus, warm skin or increasing pain.
[source: Mayo Clinic]
You won't ever have to worry about puncturing a blister if you avoid getting one in the first place. Read on to find out how to avoid them -- and yes, you can still wear your heels.