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Blisters are small pockets of liquid that form on the outer layer of the skin after the skin becomes damaged (usually caused by forceful rubbing or burning).
Blisters prevent the area from becoming further damaged by protecting the skin underneath and giving it adequate time to heal.
Blisters are filled with serum, which is essentially blood plasma without fibrinogens (the red blood cells and clotting agents are removed). However, some blisters may be filled with blood (blood blisters) - if they become infected or inflamed they can also be filled with pus.
A blister can form on any part of the body, but the most common parts are the feet and hands.
Friction blisters are more likely to develop in skin areas with a thick horny layer held tightly to the underlying structures, such as the soles of the feet or the palms of the hands.
There are a number of different reasons why blisters develop. After the skin has become damaged fluid builds up between the the upper layer of the skin and the layers below. Some of the most common causes of blisters are listed below:
There are many ways to prevent blisters from developing in the first place.
Wearing comfortable shoes and using socks that can manage moisture can prevent blisters from developing on the feet, particularly among those who sweat a lot - sport socks help keep the feet dry.
Using a protective layer of padding and using a friction management patch applied to shoes also help prevent blisters.
Talcum powder can be applied on the skin to reduce the friction from gloves and shoes.
You can protect yourself from blisters caused by chemicals by wearing gloves.
Blisters caused by sunburn can be prevented if you apply a good sunscreen, wear protective clothing (including a hat), and limit your exposure.
Researchers from the US Army Research Laboratory, Maryland, reported in the journal Sports Medicine1 that:
If the pain is not unbearable, leave the blister alone, do not try to burst it. A layer of padding filled with liquid over damaged skin allows it to repair itself.
The blister cushions the affected skin and protects it from infection.
Although most blisters will heal naturally over time, there are ways to alleviate the symptoms of the pain:
According to the National Health Service2, UK, you should not peel off the dead skin on top of the blister if it bursts.
Let the fluid inside the blister drain. Then cover it with a dry, sterile dressing. Hydrocolloid dressings, which can be bought OTC (over the counter) in pharmacies, help protect the burst blister from infection.
If the top layer of dead skin has already rubbed off the burst blister, do not try and peel any of the remaining skin.
Written by Joseph Nordqvist
Copyright: Medical News Today
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Nordqvist, Joseph. "What are blisters? How to prevent blisters." Medical News Today. MediLexicon, Intl., 16 Aug. 2013. Web.
11 Dec. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/264783>
Nordqvist, J. (2013, August 16). "What are blisters? How to prevent blisters." Medical News Today. Retrieved from
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