Whether they develop on the hands, feet or other areas of the body, blisters can be painful and frustrating. Fortunately, blisters often heal quickly without extensive care or treatment. Sometimes, however, skin blisters that don’t heal can indicate a serious medical problem.
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Blisters occur when a pocket of fluid accumulates underneath a thin layer of skin. Blisters are typically caused by extreme temperatures, friction or prolonged periods of pressure against the skin. Blisters are either filled with blood or a watery substance. Generally, blisters do not require extensive treatment and heal quite quickly on their own. If you develop a blister, simply keep the area clean with warm water and mild soap. Do not break the blister open to drain the fluid; this action increases the risk of infection. If necessary, cover the blister with a bandage or blister guard.
When a blister becomes opened to outside bacteria, the blister may become infected. When this occurs, a thick colored fluid known as pus accumulates inside the blister. The skin around the blister may also become red, swollen, warm and tender to the touch. Because the body begins expending its energy on fighting the infection, little energy is directed toward healing the blister. For this reason, an infected blister often requires medical treatment or medications to heal properly.
Continued Pressure or Friction
Blisters often develop as a result of excess pressure or friction against the skin. The prolonged pressure or friction causes the skin to weaken and break down. As this skin becomes damaged, fluids rush to the area to control the damage. As these fluids accumulate in the area, some of the fluid seeps into a small pocket between the layers of the skin. If the damaging pressure or friction on the area is not relieved, the skin will continue to break down and fluid will continue to accumulate. As a result, the blister does not heal. In some cases, this prolonged damage encourages the development of an infection.
A variety of diseases, such as cancer and heart disease, can significantly weaken the body’s immune system. As the immune system weakens, the body becomes less able to protect itself and heal from injuries. Although a blister is not a serious injury, it does require assistance from the immune system for healing. Serious illnesses are not the only cause of a weakened immune system. In fact, simple conditions, such as the flu, malnutrition or fatigue, can seriously affect the immune system.
If you are able to keep your blister clean and safe, it should heal itself within a few days. If your blister does not heal or becomes worse, consult a medical professional for proper treatment. If the blister is infected, the pus may need to be drained before successful healing can occur.