By Matthew H. Paden, DPM
Medications often come in those plastic packs with one pill in each of the little bubbles. They are formed by a machine, filled, and then sealed with a layer of cardboard or foil to protect the pills and keep them fresh and dry.
Now think of how a blister forms on your skin. The top layer separates and rises in a little bubble that is sealed around the edges. It is often filled with fluid. Your body forms this little pocket to protect the underlying skin layers from damage. However, the bubble itself can be painful during your activities.
Why You Get Blisters on Your Feet
In other areas of your body, blisters can be caused by diseases like chicken pox, viruses like those that give you cold sores, injuries like pinching a finger in a car door, chemical burns, allergic reactions, spider bites, or bad sunburns. Sometimes you can get these same sort of lesions on your feet, too, but most often the fluid-filled bubbles in your lower extremities are the result of friction from your shoes. Runners and athletes can be especially prone to getting them.
Shoes that are too tight pinch on certain spots and rub against them until the skin separates. However, a pair that is too loose can cause the same type of friction when your feet slide around in them too much. Socks can help protect you from this, but those that are too tight or loose can also cause the same problems, especially if they bunch up inside your shoes. The more time you spend moving about on your feet, the bigger the threat.
How to Take Care of Foot Blisters
Most of the time a sore that is pea-size or smaller—even if it contains blood—will go away on its own without treatment. All you need to do is put a bandage over it to protect it while the under-layers heal and the top finally dries up and drops off. It is best not to puncture or pinch this type, as the sealed barrier may be the best protection against infection possible.
However, if the lesion is particularly large and painful, you might be able to drain it yourself. Don’t try this if you are diabetic or have poor circulation: the risk of infection and non-healing ulcers is too great. Others should follow these simple steps:
- Wash hands and the area of the sore with warm, soapy water.
- Swab the blister with iodine.
- Take a stainless needle and use a cotton ball soaked in rubbing alcohol to sterilize it.
- Make a couple tiny pokes along the very edge of the bubble to let the fluid drain out. Don’t remove the loose skin flap!
- Apply petroleum jelly or antibiotic gel to the area, and cover with a nonstick gauze bandage.
- Repeat the gel application and put on a new bandage every day, and watch for infection.
How to Keep from Getting Blisters
Wearing shoes that fit really well and socks that draw dampness away from your skin are the first steps for preventing blisters. You can also try talcum powder in your socks, or shoe inserts designed to keep your feet dry. If you notice redness when you remove your shoes, try a moleskin pad on that area next time to reduce friction on it.
If you have a really large fluid bubble that you don’t feel comfortable handling yourself or shows signs of infection, or if you have diabetes or other medical conditions that make such self-care dangerous, call Rocky Mountain Foot & Ankle Center for expert care of your feet. Our foot doctors know feet from A to Z and have the expertise and experience to know how best to treat your issues. Simply call our Wheat Ridge, CO office today by dialing (303) 423-2520 to set up an appointment there, or in Golden, Evergreen, or Granby.