We’ve all experienced it before—peeling off a pair of sneakers or high heels and seeing an unsightly, burning blister on your foot. Although a common nuisance, blisters can actually cause some serious complications if they are not treated properly. Keep reading to learn how you can prevent these small, unpleasant sores from becoming a much larger issue.
What Are Blisters and Why Do They Form?
While some blisters result from temperature extremes or medical conditions, friction blisters form as a protective response against friction. When the skin on your foot is rubbed continuously by a shoe, sock, or another irritating surface, the area becomes red and inflamed. If friction does not subside, small micro-tears will occur within the skin tissue. To protect the delicate, underlying tissue from incurring additional damage, the body naturally creates a fluid-filled bubble to serve as a cushion while the skin heals.
How Do I Prevent a Blister?
The best way to avoid blisters is to be mindful of your footwear. Friction most often occurs when shoes don't fit properly. Footwear that’s too tight or too loose is more likely to rub against the skin, causing a blister to develop. So, we recommend selecting shoes that are designed for the activities you engage in. For example, if you’re planning to go for a hike, a pair of canvas slip-ons will likely leave you with a blister or two. In that situation, supportive hiking boots or trail sneakers are better-suited options.
In addition, socks provide defense against blisters because they create a barrier between the shoe and skin. Unfortunately, socks can also cause chaffing if they don’t fit well, provide adequate coverage, or stay dry. To minimize friction, we recommend wearing seamless, moisture-wicking socks that cover the heel.
What Do I Do to Treat a Blister?
A blister bubble prevents harmful bacteria from entering the damaged skin underneath. For this reason, be careful not to break the blister, which increases the risk of infection. Infected blisters can be very painful and even result in sepsis—a life-threatening blood infection—if not treated effectively. To ensure that your blister doesn’t get infected, keep it clean and covered. Wash it with mild soap and warm water twice a day, then apply an antibiotic ointment and cover with a loose bandage or donut-shaped moleskin. If you think that it may be getting infected, soak it in a saline solution by mixing one teaspoon of salt into one cup of warm water.
How Will I Know When to Seek Help?
All blisters are painful and tender to the touch. However, if you are experiencing severe pain and swelling, notice any pus or foul smells, or if your blister doesn’t show any signs of healing within a week, then you should seek medical attention. Do not try to perform at-home procedures such as popping a blister intentionally to relieve pressure. Let your doctor assess the situation and determine the best course of action for treatment.
While blisters are considered a minor problem, they can lead to far more detrimental health effects if not healed properly. If you find that you have a problematic blister on your foot, don’t hesitate to reach out to us for help! To schedule an appointment with one of our expert podiatrists, give us a call at (717) 757-3537.