What Are the Causes of Blisters on the Hands?

Reviewed on 12/14/2020

What are hand blisters?

The most common causes of blisters on the hand include eczema, friction injury, irritation from chemicals or allergens, medication reaction, infections, burns, or diabetes.
The most common causes of blisters on the hand include eczema, friction injury, irritation from chemicals or allergens, medication reaction, infections, burns, or diabetes.

Blisters are fluid-filled bubbles that appear on the skin. This fluid can be blood, pus, or the watery part of blood known as serum. You should not pop a blister unless your doctor tells you to. Popping it may cause the underlying skin to develop an infection.

Blistering on the hands has many causes, including friction, irritation, infection, or other underlying conditions. Blisters on your hands may be painful and uncomfortable.

Signs and symptoms of blisters on the hands

Due to their unique appearance, hand blisters are easy to identify. They appear as small, medium-sized, or large pockets of fluid visible on the top layer of your skin. Usually, they form on the palms or sides of your fingers.

These blisters can be painful to the touch, and the skin around the affected area may be itchy and scaly.

Types of hand blisters

Blisters are commonly named after what caused them. The three main types are:

Other types are referred to in relation to the underlying health condition.

Causes of blisters on the hands

Dyshidrotic eczema

Blisters on your hands can be caused by a skin condition called dyshidrosis, or dyshidrotic eczema. People with this condition will notice small, itchy blisters on the palms of the hands and sides of the fingers. The blisters may also appear on the soles of your feet. This condition has no cure. It comes on and clears within two to three weeks.

Friction

Rubbing your skin on an object may also cause blistering -- for example, working with a rake without using gloves.

Irritation

Skin can develop blisters if it comes into contact with some chemicals or allergens. Previous studies have linked nickel-rich foods with the occurrence of blisters on the hands. Your doctor may mention contact dermatitis when referring to this issue.

Medication

Some prescription drugs can cause reactions in your body that result in blistering. Consult your doctor if you notice a blister on your skin after taking a medicine. Also, remember to tell the doctor about any reactions you had with past medication.

Infection

If you have blisters on your hands, consult your doctor. They may want to check you for other conditions like chickenpox or impetigo.

Burns

Anyone can get a blister when they are exposed to severe sunburn, touch a hot surface, or get too close to a flame.

Cold

Yes, extreme cold can give you blisters on your palms, fingers, and forearms. When an individual is exposed to cold for several hours, chilblains appear on the backs and sides of the fingers. These itchy red swellings can develop into blisters only in severe cases.

Diabetes

People with severe diabetes can develop blistered hands or forearms. They are usually painless and will heal on their own.

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When to see the doctor for blisters on the hands

Although most blisters will heal by themselves, you may need to consult a doctor in some situations. These include:

  • You had your last tetanus injection more than 10 years ago.
  • You have swollen lymph nodes since blisters appeared.
  • You have increased swelling and pain in the affected area.
  • You see signs of infection like the presence of pus, warm and red skin around the blister, or fever.

Diagnosis of hand blisters

In most cases, the cause of hand blisters is obvious. If it’s not, your doctor will ask about your family history and your personal medical history. The doctor may also be interested in knowing about any allergies you have and any medications you take. You may be asked whether you have come into contact with any chemicals or allergens.

If your doctor suspects an allergic reaction, they can do patch tests to identify the allergen. In some cases, a small piece of your skin may be removed to be examined in a laboratory.

Treatments for blisters on the hands

Blistering that is caused by health conditions needs special treatment. If your blister has not popped, cover it loosely with a bandage. If it has popped, wash the area using clean, warm water and mild soap. Do not peel off the skin flap. Instead, smooth it down and cover the area with a sterile bandage.

Your doctor may use any of the following to treat you:

It is best not to try draining blisters at home. Ask your doctor for advice.

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References
American Diabetes Association: "Skin Complications."

American Society for Surgery of the Hand: "Hand Infection."

Cleveland Clinic: "Dyshidrosis."

Deutsches Arzteblatt International: "The Diagnosis and Treatment of Autoimmune Blistering Skin Diseases."

Frontiers in Medicine: "Diagnosis of Autoimmune Blistering Diseases."

Harvard Health Publishing: "By the way, doctor: What can I do about chilblains?"

Harvard Health Publishing: "Friction Blisters."

The Journal of Clinical and Aesthetic Dermatology: "Dietary Nickel as a Cause of Systemic Contact Dermatitis."

MedLinePlus: "Minor burns - aftercare."

MedScape: "Dyshidrotic Eczema (Pompholyx)."

National Eczema Association: "Dyshidrotic Eczema."

Stanford Health Care: "Types of Blistering Diseases."

University of Michigan Health System (UMHS): "Medicines That Can Cause Blisters."

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