What is a blister?
A local swelling of the skin that contains watery fluid and is caused by burning or irritation.
Most blisters on the feet are caused by friction and do not require medical attention. New skin will form underneath the affected area and the fluid build up in the blister is simply absorbed back into the tissue.
You can soothe ordinary blisters with vitamin E ointment or an aloe-based cream.
Do not puncture a blister unless it is large, painful, or likely to be further irritated. If you have to pop a blister, use a sterilized needle or razor blade. Wash the area thoroughly, then make a small hole and gently squeeze out the clear fluid. Apply a dab of hydrogen peroxide to help protect against infection. Do not remove the skin over a broken blister, as the new skin underneath needs this protective covering. Cover the area with a bandage and mild compression. If the fluid is white or yellow, the blister is infected and needs medical attention.
You can prevent blisters by breaking in new shoes gradually, and putting petroleum jelly or an adhesive bandage on areas that take the rub - before the blister forms. Wear socks that have heels instead of tube socks (as they tend to bunch up and cause blisters). Acrylic and other synthetic-fiber socks are good choices. Be sure to wash and dry your feet daily to prevent bacterial infections, such as Athlete's Foot.
The connection between blood circulation, your feet and diabetes
When suffering from diabetes, it is important to have an annual check up on your feet, since diabetes can affect the blood circulation and nerve sensation, leaving the person with poor healing and poor sensation. The blood vessels on the feet are narrower than in the rest of the body and when the nerve sensation becomes impaired, you can lose feeling in your feet.
Why are blisters dangerous on diabetic patients?
Blisters are one of several foot conditions which need special attention in patients with diabetes. High blood sugar levels have been linked with conditions such as poor wound healing and also peripheral neuropathy. This condition causes numbness in the hands and feet in a glove and stocking distribution. This numbness can lead to many issues where damage can be done to the foot without being aware of the extent.
Furthermore, in general because the feet are furthest away from the heart, any vascular issues will also take longer to heal. These are just some of the reasons diabetic patients must take foot care very, very seriously. Small foot problems in the diabetic can quickly amplify and manifest as more serious, major issues.
Taking care of the diabetic foot
Even small blisters or foot sores can turn into an ulcer that, if not properly treated, can lead to amputation. The rate of amputation for people with diabetes is 10 times higher than for those who don’t have the disease.
Research has shown that people with diabetes who take good care of their feet and protect their feet from injury, are much less likely to develop foot blisters.
5 steps to good foot care
Look carefully at your feet every day, including between the toes. If you cannot do this yourself, you should get someone else to do it for you. Careful checking is particularly important if you have reduced sensation in your feet, as you may not notice anything wrong until you look.
If you see anything new (such as a cut, bruise, blister, redness or bleeding) and don’t know what to do, see your doctor or podiatrist (chiropodist).
Do not try to deal with corns, calluses, verrucas or other foot problems by yourself. They should be treated by a health professional such as a podiatrist. In particular, do not use chemicals or acid plasters to remove corns, etc.
Use a moisturizing oil or cream for dry skin to prevent cracking. However, you should not apply it between the toes as this can cause the skin to become too moist which can lead to an infection developing.
Look out for athlete’s foot (a common, minor skin infection). This condition causes flaky skin and cracks between the toes, which can be sore and can become infected. If you get athlete’s foot, it should be treated with an anti-fungal cream.
Create a good health foot care routine for your feet, keep them dry and make sure you check them daily!
Reina Israel is one Back into Shape’s resident reflexologists. Reina brings to the clinic her in-depth knowledge of reflexology and rich hospital experience, having worked in some of London’s major hospitals. Uniquely, Reina has also earned a degree in podiatry and has extensive experience in diabetic foot care.