Blisters on the toes: causes and solutions

Toe blisters are fluid-filled sacs that form between the layers of skin on the toes. They are usually caused by friction, which occurs when your toes rub against a sock or shoe for an extended period of time. However, toe blisters can also be caused by other irritants, such as sun exposure, excessive moisture, or bug bites.

Toe blisters tend to heal on their own within one to two weeks, but some may require more extensive treatment. Read on to learn more about toe blisters types, causes, and treatments.

Types of Toe Blisters

Several types of blisters may appear on the toes.

clear blisters

Clear blisters on the toes look like air bubbles on the skin. The liquid that fills the bubbles is called serum. This is the clear, watery part of the blood.

blood vesicles

Blood blisters develop on toes when blisters form and the blood vessels below are damaged, causing blood to seep into the blisters. These blisters are dark red or purple.

infected blisters

Any blisters can become infected and may require medication to heal. Look for signs of infection, including redness, warmth, swelling, and pain around the blisters, as well as bad smell and pus around the blisters.

If you think your toe blisters are infected, you should call your healthcare provider. You may need antibiotics to clear the infection.

Causes of blistering toes

There are many causes of blisters — some are harmless and don’t require medical attention, while others can be more serious and may require a visit to your healthcare provider for proper treatment.

friction

Friction blisters are the most common type of blisters on the toes. They develop when a person stands for long periods of time and their toes are constantly rubbing against their shoes or socks. These blisters can cause some pain and inflammation, but they’re usually nothing to worry about.

too cold

Blisters may develop if your toes are exposed to extreme cold for extended periods of time. Often, the toes are frostbitten before the blisters appear, which will be filled with clear or milky fluid. Since frostbite is technically a type of burn, you should seek immediate medical attention to prevent skin cells or tissue from dying on your feet.

insect bites

Insect bites are very common and can cause blisters on the toes. While not everyone develops blisters after an insect bite, some do. It depends on how your body responds to bug bites.

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What causes unexplained blisters on feet?

Burns

The type of burn commonly associated with the development of blisters is a second degree burn. With second-degree burns, both the outer and underlying layers of the skin are affected, and the area may be red, swollen, and painful. Causes of second-degree burns that can affect the toes include:

  • fire
  • steam or hot liquid
  • electric shock
  • chemical exposure

severe sunburn and blisters

In some cases, exposure to too much sunlight can cause blisters on the toes. A severe sunburn can cause blisters on the toes within a day of the sunburn. Sunburn blisters are usually white and filled with fluid. They also develop red and swollen skin.

Infect

Various types of infections can cause blisters on the toes, including:

  • Bullous impetigo: Bullous impetigo is a bacterial skin infection that causes large, fluid-filled blisters to form in folded areas of the skin, such as between the toes.
  • Cellulitis: Cellulitis is another bacterial infection that can cause blistering of the toes. Anyone can get an infection, although skin breaks due to injury or chronic skin disease can increase the risk of contracting bacteria.
  • HFMD: HFMD is a viral infection. It usually presents as fever and painful blisters in the extremities.
  • Bullae: Bullae are a group of disorders. There are different types that can cause blisters on the toes. One of the most common types that affects the feet is called vesicular bullous tinea pedis, which is a form of athlete’s foot caused by a fungus. The blisters that form are small and filled with clear liquid. The small blisters eventually combine to form a larger blister.

Skin blisters usually appear after a severe fracture

skin condition

Certain skin conditions can also cause blisters on the toes. These conditions include:

  • Allergic contact dermatitis: This skin condition occurs when there is a reaction to a substance that comes into contact with the skin. If severe enough, the blisters can form exudates. Once this happens, the blisters usually crust over.
  • Hyperhidrotic eczema: Hyperhidrotic eczema is a skin condition characterized by small blisters on the hands, soles, and toes. The blisters are very itchy and develop into a larger red rash when scratched.
  • Epidermolysis Bullosa: This rare disorder causes the skin to become brittle and blistered. Minor injuries, such as rubbing or scratching, can cause painful blisters to appear. The most affected areas are the hands and feet, including the toes.

chemical exposure

In some cases, if you come into contact with chemicals called foaming agents or foaming agents, it can cause skin blisters on your toes. One of the most common chemicals that can cause blistering is mustard. Other chemicals that can cause blisters on your toes include:

  • Lewis
  • nitrogen mustard
  • phosgene oxime

If exposure to other chemicals in cosmetics, detergents, and solvents can cause allergic contact dermatitis in a person, it can cause blistering.

Treatment of toe blisters

There is a wide range of treatments for toe blisters, depending on the cause. In some cases, treatment may not be needed at all. This is especially true if they are caused by friction, as these types of blisters go away on their own within two weeks.

How to treat blisters on and between toes

Some treatment options for friction-driven blisters on the toes are:

  • Cover the blisters with a bandage and change them daily
  • rest the affected foot
  • Pay close attention to healing and watch out for infections

How to Get Rid of Blisters

when to see a doctor

If the blisters don’t heal on their own, become infected, or keep coming back, you should make an appointment with a podiatrist, a foot specialist.

Blisters that don’t heal can be a sign of a more serious problem. For example, if your blisters recur, your skin condition or infection may be causing the blisters to appear frequently.

If you know the cause of the blisters is chemical exposure, burns, or frostbite, you should seek immediate medical attention to assess the damage and get appropriate treatment.

Should you pop a blister on your toe?

According to the American Academy of Dermatology, you should avoid popping any blisters, as this increases the risk of infection. This may also prolong healing time and require medication if an infection develops.

If the blister bursts on its own, it’s important to clean the area because bacteria can get in and cause an infection. You can do this with warm water and soap. After cleaning the area, you can smooth the superficial skin, apply an antibiotic ointment, and cover it with a bandage.

Should you exfoliate blistered skin?

You should not exfoliate the blistered skin after the blister has been drained or popped. The skin below this area will be pristine. A popped blister is considered an open wound, but the top layer of the skin is protective and should not be removed.

Prevent blisters on toes

If the blisters are caused by friction, preventing blisters is the best way to avoid them. You can do this by:

  • Wear moisture-wicking socks that reduce friction.
  • Wear two pairs of socks to protect your skin.
  • Make sure your shoes fit and avoid shoes that are too loose or too tight.
  • If you frequently develop blisters on your toes, you can use a bandage first to help prevent new blisters from forming.
  • Use petroleum jelly to reduce friction with shoes or socks.

generalize

Blisters are fluid-filled sacs that can develop for a number of reasons. While the most common cause of toe blisters is friction, there are other causes, such as infections, chemical exposure, burns, and skin conditions.

Toe blisters should be treated carefully as they heal to prevent infection. If you have recurring blisters or infections on your toes, you will need to see your healthcare provider to help confirm the diagnosis and get appropriate treatment.

VigorTip words

Blisters on the toes can be painful and irritating. Blisters from friction are nothing to worry about and usually heal on their own quickly, so your toe blisters may not require any medical attention.

That being said, any signs of infection or recurring blisters could be a sign that treatment is needed. Pay attention to your symptoms, healing process, and frequency of toe blisters to determine if you need to see a doctor.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Bubble or leave the blisters?

    Blisters are best left alone. This is because popping blisters can lead to infection. In some cases, they will need to be drained, but doing so will only relieve any discomfort you feel.

  • What does blisters on toes mean?

    Toe blisters can mean a variety of things. However, they are most likely caused by friction, which could mean that you have too much moisture on your feet, or that your shoes are too big or too small.

  • How long do toe blisters last?

    Toe blisters caused by friction usually last about one to two weeks. Other types of blisters may last longer or shorter, depending on the cause and the treatment needed.

  • What does a COVID toe look like?

    COVID toes are a symptom of a COVID-19 infection that usually involves one or more toes swollen and turned red, purple, or pink. A rash-like condition may also cause brown-purple spots on the affected toes.