What Causes a Blood Blister?
Those bright red blisters on the skin can look terrifying. But why do you have one now? How do blood blisters form?
Blood blisters occur when the blood vessels under the skin's surface are damaged. Usually as the result of repeated high pressure and friction, the blood vessels in the dermis, or lower layer of skin, travel up to the epidermis.
The result is a bright red bump, filled with blister fluid and blood under the skin. Blisters can also be painful. While most people think of blisters on feet, they usually assume the cause is repeated friction.
Your body forms blisters as a defense mechanism to protect the skin from any more damage and allow for time to heal.
Structural Causes of Blood Blisters
Bony protrusions of your body are at the greatest risk of blood blisters. If you have a bunion, a bump that forms at the base of your big toe, you might have an even higher chance of getting a blister in that area.
Our feet and any bulges on the feet are most likely to be exposed to high pressure and repeated friction. Toes and bunions can rub against the soles and sides of shoes, especially if your shoes don't fit your feel well. Just walking can create friction, so it's common to get blisters on the feet.
Biomechanical Causes of Blood Blisters
The way your feet move and function can also increase or decrease your risk of blood blisters.
The knuckle of your big toe performs something called the windlass mechanism, which supports the arch of your feet and the joints of your other toes while you walk.
However, in some people, this joint may become worn down and not function as it was intended. As a result, there's more pressure applied to the big toe and not enough pressure spread across other areas of the foot.
The result is often a blood blister on the toe.
How Long Does a Blood Blister Take to Disappear?
At first, your blood blister will appear red, but the blood will congeal and turn black over time. As your blood turns black, you'll know that the cause of the bleeding has healed. If your blood remains red, your blister may not be healing.
Once your blood turns black, it will even fade away and may begin to flake off.
Blood discolors any skin it comes into contact with, so your skin may remain discolored for some time. Once all the skin cells that came into contact with the blood blister are cycled out as dead cells, your skin will appear healthy. This process can take from 30 to 48 days.
Knowing How and When to Drain a Blood Blister
Blisters can get very painful and difficult to work around. But should you pop a blood blister?
In almost every case, the answer is no. Popping a blood blister only puts you at risk of contracting an infection.
However, there are circumstances when popping and draining your blister are preferable.
Once the blood blister has gotten too big and is at risk of bursting on its own, you might be better off draining it yourself. Being able to drain the blister in a clean, controlled environment is better than having it pop spontaneously during the day.
It's also a good idea to drain if your blister is in an area you can't avoid rubbing, like a blood blister on the foot.
If you're in a situation where you have no choice but to continue applying pressure and friction to your blood pressure, like in the middle of hiking trail, you might also consider puncturing and draining your blood blister.
However, you should always examine the conditions around you. If you have sterile tools and an antiseptic on hand, it's fine to burst the blister.
If not, you should pad the area around the blister and wait.
Popping Your Blood Blister
If you've decided to pop your blister, the first step is to keep the environment clean. That includes washing your hands and the site of the blister.
Piece the blood blister with a sterile tool like a needle or scalpel knife. You can sterilize a tool with rubbing alcohol. Make punctures in two or three places to relieve pressure and let the fluid drain more efficiently.
After draining, clean the area and apply an antiseptic cream. You can also wrap the area with a sterile gauze or wrapping.
Keep pressure and friction off the affected area as best you can, and monitor it closely over the next few days for any signs of infection.
Treatment – Natural Remedies You Can Do at Home
Fortunately, you can easily do a blister treatment on your own. Make sure you know how to treat blisters with these simple at-home techniques.
One of the most important ways to help a blood blister heal is by not applying pressure.
It's best to remove any pressure to the blood blister roof and let it heal on its own. No pressure on the blister means no chance of infection.
Eliminating pressure entirely isn't always possible. A blood blister on the finger will most likely come into contact with objects around you as you drive, type on a computer, or file papers. Blood blisters on the bottom of your feet are impossible to protect from pressure.
Instead, you can focus on reducing friction. Try using orthopedic felt or a donut pad, which can provide some protection in the blood blister area.
A donut pad has a hole in the center for the blister and very thick fabric surrounding it. Ideally, you should use fabric that's as thick as the height of your blister.
An ice wrap can be a soothing and effective way to encourage your blister to heal. Cold constricts blood vessels, which can reduce swelling and stop internal bleeding.
To make an ice wrap, put ice in a plastic bag. Wrap the bag in a towel to protect your skin from the cold and then hold it to your blister.
Keep the ice wrap against your blister for ten minutes if you can stand the cold. Otherwise, apply it in shorter intervals and take breaks from the cold as needed.
If you don't have ice at home, a bag of frozen veggies, like peas, will also work. Wrap the frozen vegetables in a towel too and hold it against your blood blister.
Aloe Vera has a soothing and cooling effect, much like cucumbers. The plant's sap includes healing properties and can provide mild pain relief. It's also antibacterial and antiviral, which helps reduce the risk of infection.
Try using an aloe vera leaf (breaking it will release fresh sap) or aloe vera gel. You can even try aloe vera juice to help soothe blood blisters in the mouth.
Cucumber is an easy way to help reduce pain, swelling, and inflammation. This vegetable contains silica, a trace mineral that strengthens the connective tissues in cells. Silica can help encourage healing.
Place a slice of chilled cucumber on your blister. The cool feeling should also be soothing and might be easier on your skin than ice.
Consuming cucumbers and cucumber juice also gives you the same benefits of silica.
Witch hazel is a type of shrub whose bark and leaves are anti-inflammatory and astringent. Astringent compounds tighten your skin to reduces swelling and speed up the healing process. It also helps dry out blisters.
You can use witch hazel extract to treat your blood blister. Dab a small amount onto the blister and let it dry. You can do this treatment a few times a day.
Turmeric can treat burns, sunburns, and blisters. It's a natural antiseptic, and a good preventative measure against infections.
Mix turmeric powder with water or honey to make a paste. Honey is also antibacterial and antifungal. Apply this mixture to your blood blister two to three times a day.
Consuming turmeric is also effective. You can incorporate it easily as a seasoning into dishes.
Sandalwood is used to treat many skin conditions. It lessens pain and inflammation, encourages healing, and absorbs heat.
To use sandalwood as a treatment, mix the powder with water to make a paste. Spread the paste over your blood blister thickly and let it dry. Then, rinse the area with cold water. You can also do this treatment multiple times a day.
Medicine You Can Buy Without a Prescription
While blood blisters will heal on their own in time, there are a few medicines you can try without getting a prescription.
You can seek out medicinal creams for blisters and cold sores at your drug store. In most cases, a simple skin ointment will help speed up the healing process and reduce the risk of infection.
Treating a Burst or Broken Blood Blister
You should also know how to heal a blister. Many times we don't realize a blood blister has broken until it's too late.
If your blister has burst, you are at a high risk of infection. You need to clean and treat it immediately.
Gently clean the area with water first and allow any remaining fluid to drain. Use an antiseptic cream over the broken blister and cover with a sterile wrapping to protect from infection.
Blood blisters are at a greater risk for infection than regular blisters. An infection delays the healing process and causes you unnecessary pain and inconvenience.
To avoid infection and treat your blood blister safely, remember:
- Avoid breaking a blood blister when possible to avoid any risk of infection.
- Remove pressure and friction from the blister by wearing loose clothing, open-toed shoes, or padding the area with orthopedic felt.
- If you must pop your blister, always use sterile equipment and make sure your hands and the affected area are clean.
- Monitor your blood blister carefully for changes.
Symptoms to Watch for During Home Treatment
When treating your blisters, you'll need to watch carefully for signs of infection. Symptoms of an infection include:
- increased swelling
- increased or spread of redness
- increased warmth in affected area
Monitoring for Signs of Infection
Watching for infections is an essential part of knowing how to get rid of a blood blister.
If the blood blister begins to feel warmer than the surrounding skin or you begin to notice a pus discharge, your blister may have become infected.
The skin of a blister is inflamed, so it can naturally feel warm to the touch. This warmth is a sign of healing. However, continued warmth or a fever along with increased swelling or redness can indicate an infection.
In very severe cases, you might notice red streaks from the site of your blister extending outwards. This symptom is a sign of lymphangitis, sometimes referred to casually as blood poisoning, a very severe condition.
Lymphangitis can have serious effects on your health and even cause death, so if you notice red streaks, go to a hospital immediately.
It's a good idea to check on your blister at least twice a day. In the morning, take note of any changes from the previous day. When you're home in the evening, check to make sure your blister hasn't burst or worsened.