Blisters may appear anywhere on the body, including the hands. Blisters on hands can be painful, uncomfortable, and may hinder people from performing their regular duties.
A blister is a raised pocket of skin filled with fluid. Depending on the cause, the fluid can be serum, pus, blood, or plasma. Blisters form on the uppermost layer of the skin to protect and prevent further damage to deeper tissues.
This article discusses the various possible causes of blisters on the hands and how to treat and prevent them.
There are several causes of blisters on hands:
Repetitive friction on the skin can cause blisters. Friction blisters occur due to repetitive actions or increased stress on the skin surface against an object. This causes separation of the epidermal (outermost) layer, which leads to a fluid-filled blister.
The amount of force the skin encounters
Areas of the hand and foot most susceptible to blisters include:
- the palm
- fingers and fingertips for those playing musical instruments, such as a guitar for the first time
- soles, sides of the feet, and toes, for example, when wearing ill-fitting shoes.
Burns may also cause blisters on the hands. Blisters will develop at different rates, according to the severity of the burn.
- First-degree burns: These affect the uppermost layer of the skin, causing redness, minor swelling, and tender skin that turns white when pressed. First-degree burns blister after a few days.
- Second-degree burns: These affect both the uppermost and the underlying skin layers, causing flushed skin and painful blisters. Blisters may form immediately.
- Third-degree burns: These affect the deeper layers of the skin, causing a white or dark brown color to the skin, with a leathery appearance. Third-degree burns can cause severe damage and need immediate medical attention.
Contact with certain chemicals may cause blisters to form. Always take great care when handling chemicals, read all packaging carefully, and follow the instructions.
Chemicals that can cause blisters on the hand include:
- some cosmetics
- nickel sulfate
- chemical agents, such as mustard gas used in warfare
Several health conditions can cause blisters on the hands. Some of these conditions include:
- Dyshidrosis: A skin condition in which blisters form onthe palm of the hands, side of the fingers, and sometimes on the soles of the feet. Blisters due to dyshidrosis may cause intense itching.
- Chickenpox: This is a
highly contagiousdisease that forms clusters of red, itchy, fluid-filled blisters all over the body.
- Allergic eczema: A common allergic skin condition that may result in blistering along with other symptoms, such as itching, flaking, and cracking.
- Contact dermatitis: Blistering can occur due to skin reaction to allergens or irritants, such as pesticides or chemicals.
- Frostbite: Occurs when the skin gets exposed to extreme or prolonged cold, which may cause blisters.
Most blisters heal on their own without the need for treatment. As long as a person does not pop the blister, new skin will develop beneath as the top skin naturally dries and peels off.
Dermatologists recommend not popping blisters because they act as a protective layer that fights off infection. Instead, people can cover the blister using a bandage to protect it from further damage.
Blisters on hands caused by burns or chemical exposures are temporary reactions to stimuli. In these cases, the best treatment is to avoid the cause.
Blisters caused by medical conditions, such as allergic eczema and dyshidrosis, may require treatment. However, an individual may not know the cause unless they visit a healthcare provider. Once a doctor has diagnosed the cause, they will prescribe medication to treat the symptoms.
Beyond this, a dermatologist may recommend the following:
- covering the blister with a bandage
- avoiding popping the blister to prevent infection
- keeping the area clean and covered once the blister has drained
There are many ways to prevent blisters on hands caused by friction.
Wearing a pair of gloves is crucial, especially for those involved in manual duties or use tools regularly.
Applying lubricants, such as petroleum jelly, can also help reduce friction at pressure points, preventing blisters.
Additionally, baby powder, or talcum powder, reduces the rate of friction, especially for people involved in sports activities, such as rowing, weightlifting, or gymnastics. Since the powder absorbs moisture, it may not be suitable for activities that take a long time.
In cases where a person feels a blister beginning to form, they should immediately protect the area with a bandage.
For chemical exposures, people can prevent blisters by avoiding irritants that may cause a skin reaction and being cautious when it comes to burns.
People with blisters on their hands can try the following natural remedies:
- Coconut oil: Coconut oil contains lauric acid, a fatty acid that can hydrate the skin and reduce swelling. Therefore, people can apply coconut oil onto the blister, which may help speed up wound healing.
- Calendula: Derived from marigold plants, calendula contains antioxidants that may reduce swelling and speed up skin healing. One systematic review showed some evidence for the beneficial effects of calendula extract in wound healing.
It is important to note that calendula may cause contact dermatitis. For people using calendula for the first time, they should first test a small amount on the skin before using it to treat blisters.
A person should schedule an appointment with a doctor if blisters on the hands do not heal after about a week or they experience the following symptoms:
- severe pain and swelling
- redness around the blisters
- a fever
- signs of infection, such as pus oozing
While blisters on hands can cause pain and discomfort, most cases are not a cause for alarm.
When a person gets a blister, they should not pop it as this may lead to an infection. If the blister pops on its own, clean and cover it with a bandage.
A person should make an appointment with a doctor if there are signs of infection or if they experience severe pain or swelling.