Most of us know the feeling. Maybe it was due to glove-free gardening on a muggy afternoon, or a long day of walking at work, or while on vacation in an unfamiliar city. Whatever the case, you can sense that unwelcome bubble of fluid forming on your skin: a blister. Blisters can form for a variety of reasons, from frostbite and burns to chemical spills, slamming a finger in a door, or even a spider bite. When they form on your feet, however, the usual culprit is friction. Spend a day walking in a new pair of shoes that doesn’t fit quite right, or put in a few hours of high-intensity tennis or basketball, and all that rubbing of footwear against skin can cause a pocket to form.
In many cases, blisters are merely annoyances that heal themselves in time. When a blister sits in an uncomfortable or awkward area, though, especially a pressure point on your foot, it make simple tasks like standing or walking difficult. Furthermore, if the blister pops it becomes an infection risk, especially if you have diabetes or another condition that inhibits the body’s natural healing process. The location and condition of the blister, as well as your health, will determine the course of action you take.
Option 1: Keep the Blister Intact
In most cases, keeping the blister in one piece is the preferred method, especially if you’re at heightened risk of infection. The skin is a natural barrier against infection, so you don’t want to break it if you don’t have to. Small blisters can be protected by an ordinary bandage, while larger ones may require an absorbent gauze pad that can soak up moisture and let the bump breathe a little bit.
Option 2: Draining the Blister At Home
If the blister is too large, painful, or in a weight-bearing location, you may need to drain it. This is not a good idea if you have diabetes or a compromised immune system, though. Of course, if it pops on its own you will need to clean and bandage the wound promptly.
You’ll want to start by washing both your hands and the blister site thoroughly with soap and water, then gently swabbing the area with rubbing alcohol or iodine. Next, take a sterilized needle and puncture the bubble in several spots along the edge. Carefully drain the fluid without removing the skin flap, then apply an antibiotic ointment and bandage. After several days, carefully remove the dead skin with sterile scissors and tweezers, then reapply antibiotic ointment and a fresh bandage.
Option 3: Seek Professional Care
If you have diabetes or poor circulation, you absolutely don’t want to attempt any at-home treatment before you’ve at least cleared it with your doctor first. If you’re concerned about infection or are struggling with persistent blistering in the same location, call Family Foot and Ankle Center and let our experts diagnose and treat your problem.
Blister Prevention Tips
Blister prevention may be as simple as buying a better pair of shoes that fits properly—tight enough to stay in place, roomy enough to let toes move freely, and with plenty of cushioning on pressure points. If you’ve had blisters before and you know you’re going to be doing a lot of walking or moving around, plan ahead: wear athletic socks with extra padding in critical areas, or apply a moleskin pad inside your shoe where the friction is most intense.
For more information about blisters or skin care, read our patient library and follow our blog. If you have any concerns about your blister, or need help with draining or protecting it from damage, call Family Foot and Ankle Center at (513) 728-4800 or (859) 282-1572 or drop by at one of our six convenient Greater Cincinnati locations.