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Vesicles

Blisters

A vesicle is a small fluid-filled blister on the skin.

Considerations

A vesicle is small. It may be as tiny as the top of a pin or up to 5 millimeters wide. A larger blister is called a bulla.

In many cases, vesicles break easily and release their fluid onto the skin. When this fluid dries, yellow crusts may remain on the skin surface.

Causes

Many diseases and conditions can cause vesicles. Common examples include:

Home Care

It is best to have your health care provider examine any skin rashes, including vesicles.

Over-the-counter treatments are available for certain conditions that cause vesicles, including poison ivy and cold sores.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if you have any unexplained blisters on your skin.

What to Expect at Your Office Visit

Your provider will look at your skin. Some vesicles can be diagnosed simply by how they look.

In many cases, additional tests are needed. The fluid inside a blister may be sent to a lab for closer examination. In particularly difficult cases, a skin biopsy may be needed to make or confirm a diagnosis.

Treatment will depend on the cause of the vesicles.

References

Habif TP. Vesicular and bullous diseases. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 16.

Marks JG, Miller JJ. Vesicles and bullae. In: Marks JG, Miller JJ, eds. Lookingbill and Marks' Principles of Dermatology. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 10.

    • Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters

      Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters - illustration

      Pemphigus is classified as one of the blistering diseases. These is a close-up picture of typical lesions. Very small blisters are called vesicles. Larger blisters, like these, are called bullae.

      Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters

      illustration

    • Chigger bite - close-up of blisters

      Chigger bite - close-up of blisters - illustration

      Chigger bites are caused by the larvae of the chigger. The bite produces blisters (vesicles) and bleeding into the skin (purpura). These bites itch intensely and are usually located on exposed areas of the skin where the chigger larvae have access. This photograph demonstrates vesicle formation following the bites.

      Chigger bite - close-up of blisters

      illustration

    • Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles

      Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles - illustration

      Hand, foot, and mouth disease is cause by a coxsackie virus. It produces mouth ulcers and small blisters (vesicles) on the hands and feet. The vesicles often have a reddish border with a white or lighter colored area in the center.

      Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles

      illustration

    • Herpes simplex - close-up

      Herpes simplex - close-up - illustration

      This close-up view of an early herpes outbreak shows small, grouped blisters and a lot of redness.

      Herpes simplex - close-up

      illustration

    • Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion

      Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion - illustration

      A close-up picture of herpes zoster skin lesions. Four small blisters are shown with redness around them. These vesicles will break, crust over, scab, and finally heal.

      Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion

      illustration

    • Poison ivy on the knee

      Poison ivy on the knee - illustration

      This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the knee. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters (vesicles), often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The person may then spread the toxin to other areas of the body by scratching.

      Poison ivy on the knee

      illustration

    • Poison ivy on the leg

      Poison ivy on the leg - illustration

      This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the leg. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters, often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The rash is caused by skin contact with the oily sap (resin) of these plants. The oily resin usually enters the skin rapidly, and is seldom transferred from person to person. The rash is not caused by the fluid from the blisters. Thus, once the person has washed the oil off the skin, the rash is usually not contagious.

      Poison ivy on the leg

      illustration

    • Vesicles

      Vesicles - illustration

      A vesicle, or blister, is a thin-walled sac filled with a fluid, usually clear and small. Vesicle is an important term used to describe the appearance of many rashes that typically consist of or begin with tiny-to-small fluid-filled blisters.

      Vesicles

      illustration

      • Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters

        Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters - illustration

        Pemphigus is classified as one of the blistering diseases. These is a close-up picture of typical lesions. Very small blisters are called vesicles. Larger blisters, like these, are called bullae.

        Bullous pemphigoid - close-up of tense blisters

        illustration

      • Chigger bite - close-up of blisters

        Chigger bite - close-up of blisters - illustration

        Chigger bites are caused by the larvae of the chigger. The bite produces blisters (vesicles) and bleeding into the skin (purpura). These bites itch intensely and are usually located on exposed areas of the skin where the chigger larvae have access. This photograph demonstrates vesicle formation following the bites.

        Chigger bite - close-up of blisters

        illustration

      • Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles

        Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles - illustration

        Hand, foot, and mouth disease is cause by a coxsackie virus. It produces mouth ulcers and small blisters (vesicles) on the hands and feet. The vesicles often have a reddish border with a white or lighter colored area in the center.

        Hand, foot, and mouth disease on the soles

        illustration

      • Herpes simplex - close-up

        Herpes simplex - close-up - illustration

        This close-up view of an early herpes outbreak shows small, grouped blisters and a lot of redness.

        Herpes simplex - close-up

        illustration

      • Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion

        Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion - illustration

        A close-up picture of herpes zoster skin lesions. Four small blisters are shown with redness around them. These vesicles will break, crust over, scab, and finally heal.

        Herpes zoster (shingles) - close-up of lesion

        illustration

      • Poison ivy on the knee

        Poison ivy on the knee - illustration

        This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the knee. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters (vesicles), often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The person may then spread the toxin to other areas of the body by scratching.

        Poison ivy on the knee

        illustration

      • Poison ivy on the leg

        Poison ivy on the leg - illustration

        This is a typical early appearance of a poison ivy rash, located on the leg. These early lesions consist of multiple small blisters, often in a line where the skin has brushed against the poison ivy plant. The rash is caused by skin contact with the oily sap (resin) of these plants. The oily resin usually enters the skin rapidly, and is seldom transferred from person to person. The rash is not caused by the fluid from the blisters. Thus, once the person has washed the oil off the skin, the rash is usually not contagious.

        Poison ivy on the leg

        illustration

      • Vesicles

        Vesicles - illustration

        A vesicle, or blister, is a thin-walled sac filled with a fluid, usually clear and small. Vesicle is an important term used to describe the appearance of many rashes that typically consist of or begin with tiny-to-small fluid-filled blisters.

        Vesicles

        illustration

      Review Date: 4/16/2019

      Reviewed By: Michael Lehrer, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Dermatology, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

      The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., a business unit of Ebix, Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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