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A water blister is a bump that forms on a person's skin and then fills with a clear, watery substance. Water blisters form mostly from friction, such as from poorly fitting shoes or from repetitive uses of an object such as a rake or a tennis racket. Water blisters can be treated easily, but it is always prudent to make sure you understand what caused it to occur, as they can sometimes be symptoms of a more serious problem such as chickenpox or an allergic reaction.
A water blister is actually a pocket of fluid called serum. Serum is that portion of the blood that is left after red blood cells and the agents that cause clotting are removed. A water blister will occur when the outer layer of a person's skin becomes damaged. The fluid will collect under the injured layer of skin to protect the tissue beneath it and give it a chance to heal.
Friction is the main culprit when it comes to the formation of water blisters. They are most common on the hands and feet and can be brought about by wearing new shoes or tight shoes that constantly rub against the heels or toes. Water blisters on the hands usually surface on the upper part of the palm, and activities like swinging a baseball bat, shoveling, playing tennis or raking--where the hand is in contact with an object that causes rubbing and friction--will precipitate blisters. Blisters will pop up more readily on moist skin and when conditions are warm and humid.
There are other causes of water blisters. They can be the result of sunburn or a burn from chemicals, heat or electricity. The bites of certain spiders can result in a water blister. Certain conditions such as chickenpox, herpes and shingles will have water blisters as a symptom and are caused by a virus. Insects like scabies and bedbugs can give you a water blister with their bite. An allergic reaction, such as those that occur after touching poison ivy or sumac, can leave you with a water blister, as can adverse reactions to some medications.
Smaller water blisters can be treated by covering them with an adhesive bandage. Larger and more painful water blisters need more attention. They should never be punctured unless they actually prevent you from walking or from having the use of your hands, since the fluid that fills them eventually is reabsorbed into the skin. If you must drain a blister, then wash your hands carefully and thoroughly using plain soap and water and administer iodine or rubbing alcohol to the water blister. Use a needle to pierce the blister along the edges and allow the fluid to drain out. Do not remove the skin, as this makes you susceptible to infections. Cover the area with an antibiotic ointment and protect it with a bandage or pad made of gauze. If any sign of infection can be seen, such as redness or pus, then contact your doctor.
Those water blisters brought about by repeated rubbing can be guarded against by wearing gloves for protection on the hands and properly fitting footwear. Baseball players will wear batting gloves to protect their hands, for example, and runners will make sure that their shoes fit correctly and that they have good athletic socks to provide extra cushioning where blisters can occur. Water blisters from burns, allergic reactions or illnesses like chicken pox can become itchy and will require medical attention, with doctors often prescribing ointments to ease symptoms until the blisters heal.