Nail Clinic: A Blistering Problem

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Follow these guidelines to avoid causing further complications for your clients with blisters.

Blisters—we all seem to get them at one point or another, and they often appear on parts of the body that nail technicians work on the most: hands and feet. Though certain cases may signal a larger health issue, blisters are typically not dangerous. However, when blisters are present, it does require you to take several precautions during services to ensure that you don’t worsen the situation or put yourself in harm’s way. In this month’s Nail Clinic, we examine the most common causes of blisters and how you should handle them in the salon when you spot them on your clients’ skin.

Overview
Blisters develop due to friction, which is the most common cause of blistering on the skin, and may be a common occurrence for clients who wear poorly fitted shoes for long periods of time. "A blister is a small pocket of fluid that forms within the superficial layers of the skin, typically caused by forceful rubbing or friction from shoes," explains Jacqueline Sutera, DPM, who has private practices in New York and New Jersey. "Sometimes a strappy shoe, a tight or loose shoe, a shoe that is ill-fitting or just ‘rubs the wrong way,’ can cause them," she says. “You can get blisters anywhere on the feet, including the heels, toes or balls of the feet."

Although friction blisters are the most common, blisters can form for a variety of other reasons. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), blistering on the skin may also be caused by:

  • Allergic reactions to drugs
  • Atopic dermatitis (eczema)
  • Blistering skin diseases, including dermatitis herpetiformis
  • Chicken pox
  • Contact dermatitis (possibly caused by poison ivy)
  • Herpes simplex (cold sores)
  • Herpes zoster (shingles)
  • Impetigo (caused by insect or animal bites, or other skin trauma)

Some people are more likely to get blisters than others due to health reasons. "There is a condition called epidermolysis bullosa, where the skin blisters much more easily than normal," notes Robert Brodell, MD, professor of internal medicine, dermatology, at Northeastern Ohio Universities College of Medicine in Rootstown, Ohio. "In some cases, the disease is very severe; in others, rather mild, with blisters developing only when there is a fair amount of friction." The NIH reports that clients who have this condition may also suffer from nail loss or deformed nails. However, this condition is hereditary and usually present from birth, so your client should be aware of it. As always, having new clients fill out questionnaires that inquire about health issues will make you aware of this conditionand prevent you from agitating it with excess friction during services.