In the human body, friction can lead to the development of blisters, which often form on the feet and hands. These skin bubbles can be a source of discomfort and, even worse, increase the risk of infection if they burst. Fortunately, preventative measures can help!
Naturally, the best starting point when we discuss blisters is with your skin. The skin is actually the body’s largest organ. Its primary function is to protect our internal organs and tissues from external threats, like microorganisms and weather elements. Other functions include helping to regulate body temperature and deliver the experience of our sensations (cold, heat, and touch).
We may think of skin as being our body’s external layer, but skin has layers of its own. Going from outermost to innermost layer, these are the epidermis, dermis, and hypodermis (also called subcutaneous). The epidermis actually has 4-5 sublayers – the Stratum Corneum, Stratum Lucidum, Stratum Granulosum, Stratum Spinosum, and Stratum Basale. The Stratum Lucidum is not actually found in all areas of skin, but it is present in areas that experience greater friction forces, like your feet and hands.
A blister will develop when friction causes outer layers to separate from inner ones. The body will fill the space between the separated layers of skin with a fluid for protection. The clear, watery fluid contained within a blister is called serum. Serum fills the blister from neighboring tissues and provides a natural protection for the skin underneath it. This barrier allows the body to repair the damaged skin. If the blister doesn’t burst, the serum will be reabsorbed into the body and the old skin will dry out and fall off.
We mentioned “if the blister doesn’t burst,” which is important to note when we look at potential complications. When a blister bursts, it exposes inner tissues to the external environment, which can increase the possibility of infection. This is of some concern for a healthy individual, but it can be risky for someone with a compromised immune system or for someone who has diabetes. A burst blister can break down and evolve into a skin ulcer, which could lead to an amputation for diabetic individuals.
Blister Treatment and Prevention
When we consider treatment and prevention for blisters, these are clearly important considerations if diabetes is in the picture. Prevention, of course, is the best course of action. To this end, make sure your footwear fits correctly. Shoes that are too loose can enable the feet to slide around inside, which can lead to blistering. Tight shoes are no better, and can also lead to the formation of a blister.
Feet that are wet are more likely to blister than dry ones, so opt for moisture-wicking socks. Conversely, excessively dry feet are also at heightened risk, which means you need to strike a balance. We can help you understand how to do this.
With regards to blister treatment, it is best to try to protect the blister and let nature run its course. Covering smaller blisters with bandages can help. If a blister does burst, wash the area with soap and water, apply antibiotic ointment, smooth down the flap of skin, and cover with a clean bandage.
In the event you are diabetic and develop a blister, make an appointment at one of our offices for professional care.
If you are interested in learning more about blisters, or would like to have one treated by a medical professional in a safe, professional environment, simply contact Foot & Ankle Associates of Florida by calling 407-339-7759 or 352-589-9550 (if calling from Lake County). Our friendly staff will be happy to help with anything you need, including answering any questions you might have or assisting you in scheduling an appointment with any of our five Florida offices.
We are located in Orlando, Kissimmee, Lake Mary, Altamonte Springs, and Tavares, FL. You can request an appointment with any of our offices online right now.