Skin develops blisters and peels when it is exposed to a number of different substances and conditions, ranging from extreme heat to chemicals or allergens. Blisters form as a result of underlying medical conditions or trauma. Once the cause of the blisters and peeling has been addressed, blisters and the subsequent peeling can be treated with a variety of topical applications, according to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology.
Blisters are raised spots of skin that usually are filled with fluid. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the fluid, called serum, collects just underneath the top layer of skin. Blisters serve as protection against further damage to lower layers of the epidermis. When blisters break, the surrounding top layer of skin usually peels away.
Various types of environmental irritants can cause blisters and peeling. Acids, cleaning fluids, industrial chemicals and solvents, as well as ingredients used during cosmetic surgery procedures, can cause blisters and peeling. People with sensitive skin can break out in skin reactions from soap, cleaning products and dryness. Burns from fire and the sun also can cause blisters that can result in skin peeling. Continuous friction on a certain spot of skin, such as a toe, can cause blisters. Diseases that often present with blisters and skin peeling include shingles, eczema and viral infections like herpes.
A group of skin disorders that start with blisters are called bullous diseases. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, bullous diseases result from an autoimmune disorder that forces the skin to attack itself. The most common type of bullous disease is called pemphigus bullous, which causes skin to peel off when rubbed. Doctors can identify infectious and noncontagious skin blisters that develop for no apparent reason with a biopsy of the skin, a physical examination and medical history. Looking at a blister and patch of peeling skin often provides clues as to the origin as well.
Toxic epidermal necrolysis, a serious skin condition that causes peeling and blisters, can be fatal. Blisters and peeling usually result as an adverse reaction to penicillin allergies. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, the life-threatening skin disease also can strike for no apparent reason. Toxic epidermal necrolysis strikes quickly and usually begins with a red, painful spot that rapidly spreads and causes large pieces of skin to peel off, sometimes even before blisters have a chance to form. Fever usually accompanies the condition. The skin condition travels to the eyes, ears and genitals and usually is treated with antibiotics, sterilized bandages and isolation because the skin is so vulnerable to infection.
Treatment of blisters and peeling skin depends on the source of the skin disorder. For example, blisters that form as a result of burns should be treated with cool water until medical help arrives, according to MedlinePlus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institutes of Health. Sudden rashes, accompanied by fever and pain, should receive immediate emergency treatment. Long-standing skin conditions due to hereditary or autoimmune diseases must be monitored over time. In addition to treating the cause of the skin condition, blisters and peeling skin must be protected from infection with topical ointments and coverings.