Vesicles

How They're Caused & Treated

A child with chicken pox.
A child with chicken pox. Joanne Green/Getty Images

A vesicle, also known as a blister or a vesicular lesion, forms when fluid becomes trapped under the epidermis, creating bubble-like sac. The surrounding skin keeps fluid in place, but the vesicle can break open very easily and release the fluid.

Vesicles can be less than half a centimeter in diameter to more than an inch in diameter, and they can contain fluid or air. They can be signs of chicken pox, early stages of eczema, contact dermatitis, shingles and herpes simplex.

Causes

Vesicles are triggered by a number of causes. Some are considered minor, like friction. If you've ever broken in a new pair of shoes or used your hands playing sports or doing manual labor, you've probably dealt with blisters. Other minor causes include allergic reactions, contact dermatitis, exposure to chemicals, cold sores, burns, and eczema.

If you have persistent, large legions that multiply or change shape or color, see your doctor. Some causes are serious and require a visit to the doctor if the vesicles are a result of an existing condition, including:

  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Chicken pox or shingles
  • Herpes
  • Impetigo

Appearance

A typical vesicle looks like a little bubble of fluid under the skin. The larger the vesicle, the more prone to breaking open, which can be quite painful. It can also cause inflammation in the surrounding area. If a blister bursts prematurely before the underlying skin heals, it poses a greater risk of infection.

Diagnosis

Vesicles are easy to recognize since they appear on the surface of the skin. In many cases your recent health history and/or conditions you have is enough information for a doctor to give a diagnosis on the spot. However, if the cause is uncertain, a doctor might take a fluid sample or arrange a biopsy of skin tissue.

Treatment

As tempting as it might be, do not pick or scratch at any lesions. It's important to keep the area clean and the vesicle sealed so the skin beneath can heal. If a vesicle is swollen and painful, a doctor can sterilely drain the fluid, allowing the skin to heal effectively without risking infection.

Vesicle treatment depends on the cause. In many cases vesicles are treated with over-the-counter medication, or they could heal on their own. Serious cases often come with serious symptoms, like inflammation or infection, and medication is prescribed accordingly. Vesicles caused by autoimmune disorders can be treated with an antibiotic to combat infection and a corticosteroid to reduce inflammation.

Preventing Vesicles

Vesicles aren't always preventable. Those caused by genetics or a viral infection could appear again in the future. Proper care can treat vesicles as they appear, but if they're brought on by a serious condition, they're likely going to return.

If your allergies trigger vesicles, avoid your allergens, and do not share things like straws, cups and lip care products with others.

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