You’ve probably felt the not-so-nice side effects of friction against your skin. Lots of walking or running, tight shoes, hiking on rough terrain, repeated twists and turns—any activity can rub against your feet. You may not have noticed the problem at first, but after repeated irritation on the bottoms or sides of your feet or ankles, a spot would start to sting. You might have initially ignored the sensation, but when it worsened, a quick glance at the sore spot confirmed it: a raised, inflamed bubble of skin, also known as a blister, had formed.
Creating a Skin Bubble
A blister is a fluid-filled vesicle in the top-most layer of skin. Although usually caused by repeated friction and pressure, certain illnesses, a hard pinch, and extreme hot or cold can also cause them.
As the outer part of the skin takes on damage from the force placed on it, it separates from the lower layers. The body then fills this gap with clear fluid to provide a protective cushion between the friction and the more sensitive lower layers of skin. Pressure on this bubble is extremely uncomfortable and makes it hard for you to wear shoes or continue with your activities.
While this condition isn’t usually dangerous, it does have a few risks. If the blister bursts and the fluid drains, you can develop an infection. For those who struggle with a compromised immune system, like people with diabetes, these small sores can also easily grow into an ulcer if not addressed and covered right away.
Restoring the Surface
Usually blisters heal quickly if you take care of them. Though it might be tempting to puncture and drain it, leave the bubble intact if you can. The skin and fluid provide a slight layer of protection against infections.
Cover the sore with a clean bandage or gauze and tape. If it’s in a weight bearing or frequently rubbed area, you may need to cover it with a pad to help protect it. Cut a hole in a moleskin and place that over the bandage, so that the area around the blister is padded without putting extra pressure on the spot itself.
If the sore has already burst and drained on its own, don’t peel off the dead skin. Clean the spot carefully and apply an antibiotic gel before covering it with a bandage. If you develop sores frequently, or they do not seem to be healing, seek help from experts like Dr. Evan Merrill and Dr. Adam Gerber to investigate the reason.
Blisters are fairly easy to prevent with just a little effort. Wear thick, fitted socks that wick moisture away from your feet and won’t bunch up or slide around. Make sure your shoes fit comfortably as well—neither too tight nor too loose. You may need pads or insoles in your footwear to help reduce the friction between your skin and the shoes as well. Skin that is either too sweaty or too dry is at risk for friction damage, so keep it supple but not wet with a nice moisturizer.
While they are not the most threatening condition your feet can suffer, blisters are painful and can open your body to possible infections. They need to be monitored closely and cared for so that they are able to heal quickly. If you have trouble with frequent skin sores or a weakened immune system from diabetes, have your blisters examined and treated professionally to avoid complications.