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Blisters: Causes, Treatments, and Prevention

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Emmanuella Ekokotu
Ekokotu Emmanuella is a sociologist and Anthropologist, writer, and fashion model who lives in Benin city, Edo state,Nigeria.

What are blisters? Blisters are quite common, and everyone has had a blister one time or another. Blisters are medically called vesicles and are characterized by a raised portion of the skin filled with a clear liquid.

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If you have ever worn tight or ill-fitting shoes, then you are probably familiar with blisters.
This common cause of blistering produces vesicles when friction between your skin and the shoe results in layers of skin separating and filling with fluid.

Blisters are always painful, uncomfortable, and stressful to deal with. But most of the time, they are not a sign of some more serious condition or a harmful thing.

You may not need any form of treatment to get rid of blisters as they will dry out and heal without any medical attention. If you ever randomly notice unexplained blisters, visit your health care provider and get a diagnosis.

Conditions that cause a blister

Several conditions may cause blisters, and they include infection, friction, or, in rare situations, a skin condition. In this article, we have put together 16 likely causes of blisters.

1. Cold sore

These are a red, painful, and fluid-filled blister that shows up near a person’s mouth and lips

The affected area is known to tingle or burns before the cold sore shows up.

Outbreaks of cold sore may also be followed by mild, flu-like symptoms like body aches, low fever, and swollen lymph nodes

The Herpes simplex viruses HSV-1 and HSV-2 are responsible for causing oral and genital lesions

These painful, reddish, blisters can either show up alone or in clusters and bleed out clear yellow fluid then finally crust over.

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Signs also include mild flu-like symptoms such as fever, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, headache, body aches, and decreased appetite.

Blisters may show up again in response to stress, illnesses, menstruation, or even sun exposure.

Cold sores can be classified as a sexually transmitted disease that is caused by the HSV-1 and HSV-2 viruses.

This sexually transmitted infection causes herpetic sores, which are known to be excruciating blisters that can break open and let out the liquid content.

The infected area usually starts to tingle or itch, before the blisters appear.

Symptoms of cold sores include swollen lymph nodes, mild fever, headache, and body aches.

2. Impetigo

Common in babies and children

The rash is often located in the area around the mouth, chin, and nose

This form of a blister is widespread in babies and little children. When an Impetigo appears, it does so in the form of a rash on the areas around the chin, nose, and mouth. this rash can be discomforting and filled with fluid that easily pops and forms a honey-colored crust

3. Burns

Both size and depth classify the severity of burns.

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First degree burns: The first degree burns are usually minor red swelling and dry tender skin that will turn white with the application of pressure.

Second-degree burns: the second-degree burns are excruciating, clear, liquid-filled blisters, and feature skin that looks red or has a variation of patchy coloration.

Third-degree burns: This burn features white or dark brown color, coupled with a leathery appearance and little or no sensitivity to touch.

4. Contact Dermatitis

These blisters appear a few hours to a few days after direct contact with an allergen

The rash has visible borders that show up exactly where your skin had contact with the irritating substance

Skin with contact dermatitis is scaly, itchy, red, or raw

The blisters leak out liquid, ooze, or turn crusty

5. Stomatitis

This is an inflammation or sore on the lips or inside a person’s mouth that can be caused by stress, infection, injury, sensitivity, or other kinds of disease.

There are two primary forms of Stomatitis:

The two significant types of stomatitis are aphthous stomatitis AKA canker sores, and herpes stomatitis, also called cold sore.

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Herpes stomatitis symptoms include fever, body aches, swollen lymph nodes, and painful blisters that are fluid-filled located on the lips or in the mouth that eventually pops and ulcerates.

There are several symptoms of herpes stomatitis, and they include swollen lymph nodes, body aches, and fever.

In cases of aphthous stomatitis, the ulcers are oval or round with a yellow or white center, and a red, inflamed border.

6. Frostbite

Frostbite is a condition that is caused by extreme cold damage to any body part.
There are common locations for frostbite, and they include toes, fingers, nose, cheeks, ears, and chin.

Symptoms of frostbite include numb, or prickly skin that may be yellow or white and feel hard or waxy.

Severe symptoms of frostbite include blackening of the affected area, fluid- or blood-filled blisters, and a complete loss of sensation.

7. Shingles

Shingles are an excruciating rash that will likely tingle, burn, or itch, even in the absence of blisters.

Rash made up of clusters of blisters filled with fluid that easily break and drip off liquid.

Shingle rash shows up in a linear stripe pattern that most commonly appear on the torso, but may also show up on other body parts including the face.

Shingle rash may be followed by chills, low fever, fatigue, or headache.

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8. Dyshidrotic eczema

Dyshidrotic eczema is a skin condition that less attention paid to; therefore not be familiar with it. Dyshidrotic eczema features itchy blisters showing up on the soles of a person’s feet or the palms of the hands.

The cause of Dyshidrotic eczema is unknown, but there is a possibility that it is related to allergies, such as hay fever.

Dyshidrotic eczema causes Itching on the hands or feet.

Fluid-filled blisters are seen on the toes, fingers, feet, or hands.

Other symptoms of Dyshidrotic eczema include red, dry, and scaly skin with deep cracks.

9. Pemphigoid

Pemphigoid is the strangest of all the conditions that may cause blisters because it is a rare autoimmune disorder that is caused by an immune system malfunction that results in blistering and skin rashes on the arms, legs, abdomen, and mucous membranes.

Various types of pemphigoid differ according to when and where and the blistering occurs.

Before blisters appear, a red rash usually develops.

The blisters of pemphigoid are thick, large, and fluid-filled. The fluid is usually clear, but contain some blood in a few cases.

The skin around the blisters may look healthy, or slightly dark or red.

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Ruptured pemphigoid blisters are usually painful and sensitive.

10. Pemphigus Vulgaris

Just like Pemphigoid, Pemphigus Vulgaris is an uncommon autoimmune disease

This condition affects the skin and mucous membranes of the throat, mouth, nose, genitals, eyes, lungs, and anus.

Pemphigus causes painful, itchy skin blisters that easily break and bleed.

These blisters can appear in the throat and mouth, which may cause pain with eating and swallowing.

11. Allergic eczema

Allergic eczema is another condition that causes blisters. The appearance of allergic eczema may look like a burn, and it is often found on hands and forearms.

Affected skin is red, itchy, scaly, or appears raw.

Allergic eczema causes blisters that drip, ooze, or appear crusty.

12. Chickenpox

Chickenpox is a common condition that causes clusters of itchy, red, blisters that are fluid-filled and in different stages of healing all over a person’s body.

The rash is accompanied by body aches, fever, loss of appetite, and sore throat.

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Chickenpox remains contagious until all the blisters have completely crusted over.

13. Erysipelas

Erysipelas is a bacterial infection that affects the upper layer of the skin. The known cause for Erysipelas is the group A Streptococcus bacterium.

Symptoms of Erysipelas include chills; fever; a red, swollen, and painful patch of skin with a raised edge; generally feeling unwell; blisters on the affected part; and swollen glands.

14. Dermatitis herpetiformis

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a common itchy, burning skin, blistering rash that appears on the knees, elbows, scalp, buttocks, and back.

Dermatitis herpetiformis is a symptom of celiac disease, an autoimmune gluten intolerance.

The symptoms of celiac disease include very itchy bumps that appear like pimples and are filled with a clear liquid. These blisters form and heal in waxing and waning cycles.

Symptoms of celiac disease can be controlled easily by opting for a gluten-free diet.

Temporary causes of blisters

There are several temporary causes of blisters, and they include:

Friction: this occurs when tight clothing or something else rubs against your skin for an extended period. Friction mostly happens on the hands and feet.

Contact dermatitis: Contact dermatitis is also a known cause of blisters and is known as a skin reaction to allergens, like latex, poison ivy, adhesives, or irritants like pesticides or chemicals. Contact dermatitis can cause red, inflamed skin as well as blistering.

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Burns: Burns, if remarkably enough, can lead to blistering. This includes sunburns, burns from extreme heat, and chemical burns.

Allergic eczema: Allergic eczema is another skin condition that is triggered or worsened by allergens and can form blisters. Another type of eczema known as dyshidrotic eczema also leads to blistering, but its cause remains unknown, and it tends to appear and disappear.

Frostbite: this is another less common cause of blisters. It appears on skin that has been exposed to extreme cold for an extended period.

Blisters as a symptom of infection

Blistering may also be a symptom of some infections, including these:

Impetigo: Impetigo is a bacterial infection that affects the skin and can occur in both adults and children. It may also cause blisters.

Chickenpox: Chickenpox is an infection that is caused by a virus and leads to itchy spots and usually causes blisters on the skin.

Shingles or herpes zoster are caused by the same virus responsible for chickenpox. The virus may reappear in some people much later in their life and creates a skin rash with fluid blisters that can pop.

Herpes: Herpes and the cold sores that result from it can lead to skin blistering.

Stomatitis: Stomatitis is an injury or sore inside the mouth on lips that can be caused by the herpes simplex virus 1.

Genital herpes: Genital herpes can also cause blisters around a person’s genital region.

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Erysipelas: Erysipelas is an infection that is caused by the Streptococcus group of bacteria, and causes skin blisters as a symptom.

Blisters as the outcome of an uncommon skin condition

In rare cases, blisters are the outcome of an uncommon skin condition. For many of such conditions, the cause is not identified. Some of the skin conditions that cause blisters include:

  • Pemphigus
  • Porphyrias
  • Pemphigoid
  • Epidermolysis bullosa
  • Dermatitis herpetiformis

Treatment for blisters

As earlier mentioned, most blisters do not require any form of treatment. If you let them be, they will go away naturally, and the top layer of your skin will prevent any infection.

If you are aware of the cause of your blister, there is a possibility that you will be able to treat it, keeping it protected with a bandage or some other covering. Eventually, the fluids from the blisters will seep back into the tissue and make the blisters disappear.

Blisters can be tempting to pop, but you should not puncture them unless it is excruciating, because the skin that covers the fluid protects your skin from infection.

Blisters that are caused by allergens, friction, and burns are only temporary reactions to stimuli. In such a case, the best treatment is to stay away from whatever is causing your skin to blister.

The blisters that show up due to infections are also temporary, but they sometimes require medical treatment. If you suspect that you may have some type of infection, you need to see your healthcare provider immediately.

In addition to the medication you have to take for the infection you’re dealing with, your healthcare provider should be able to give you some medicine or ointment to treat the symptoms.

If the cause of your blisters is known, such as the use of a drug or contact with a specific chemical, please discontinue the use of that product. Some of the conditions that may cause blisters, like pemphigus, do not have a known cure.

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Your doctor can only prescribe treatments that can help you manage the symptoms. The treatment may include antibiotics to cure skin infections, and steroid creams to relieve skin rashes.

Prognosis for blisters

In a majority of cases, blisters are not part of or a symptom of life-threatening conditions. Most blisters will go away without any form of treatment but may cause you discomfort and pain in the meantime.

The amount of blisters you have on my body, and whether these blisters have ruptured or are now infected, is vital in the outlook of your condition. If you can treat an infection that is responsible for your blisters, then your outlook is good.

Nevertheless, for rare skin conditions, how potent treatment will be depends much on the individual situation.

Prevention of friction blisters

The most common of blisters are those that are caused by friction on the skin of your thighs or feet. You can try out some necessary preventive measures to avoid these kinds:

Always put on comfortable, well-fitting underwear and powder your thighs with baby powder.

Always wear comfy shoes.

If you are walking a long-distance or for a long time, opt for thickly cushioned socks to help absorb feet sweat and reduce friction.

We hope that you found this article helpful. Please share with us how you manage blisters and other preventive measures, you know. We look forward to receiving your comments.

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