Is There a Doctor in the House?

A bright orange Gazania flower in full bloom.

No one wants to see pictures of toenails, so instead here's a picture of a flower. Image via Wikipedia

Okay, I’m going to start off with a warning: this post may be a little bit gross, especially if you’re not a fan of feet.  It doesn’t involve missing toenails, but it does involve blisters.  Fair warning?  I think so.

And now let’s begin.  First, a step back in time–when I was young, probably still in elementary school, I accompanied and friend and her mom on some errands.  My friend’s mother, an avid runner, needed a new pair of shoes and we stopped at the sporting goods store so that she could buy a pair.  While she was trying them on, she imparted some wisdom: “When you buy running shoes, always make sure you have plenty of room for your toes.  You don’t want your toes to get squished up against the toe of the shoe while you’re running, you can lose a toenail that way.”  Maybe it was because I knew I was destined to become a runner someday, or maybe it was just because the thought of losing a toenail was a bit traumatic (let’s be honest, it was probably this)–for some reason, that really stuck with me, and to this day my toenails remain intact.  My toes, on the other hand, are a different story.

I’m not really sure exactly what happened, but somehow my little toe on my left foot ended up getting repeatedly squished (and yes, that’s the technical term).  I don’t know how, because it didn’t seem connected to any one pair of shoes, I wasn’t doing anything different from what I normally do, and since this incident, my toe has been fine.  The squishing resulted in a blister on the pad of my toe, which, since my little toe is little, occupied the entire back side of it.  Although it hurt, I continued to run with it, and the blister pretty quickly took care of itself, leaving my toe with dead skin on it.  A bit more friction took care of the extraneous dead skin, and I was finally left with a little toe covered almost entirely in new skin, and, as a result, very sensitive.  I considered wrapping it up somehow to make running with it more comfortable, but ultimately I didn’t do anything and just went on my merry (and, it might be fair to argue at this point, masochistic) way.  Shortly thereafter, I noticed another change in my toe’s appearance.  Like any sensible person would, I consulted my fiancé.

“Will you look at something gross?”  I asked him.  I thought it was only fair to be straightforward.

“Um, sure.  What is it?” he asked with trepidation.

“My toe.  It’s gross.  Are you sure you will look at it?  It really is pretty gross.”

“Yeah, let me see it.”  I lifted my foot, and showed him my toe.

“Is this a blood blister?” I asked, pointing to the reddish purple thing that my toe had turned into.  “I’m pretty sure that’s blood, it’s definitely liquid.”  I admit, I had performed a bit of an examination on it before approaching Nat with my problem.  My examination was both visual and tactile.  I know: yuck.

“No, I don’t think so.  You get blood blisters when you pinch skin.  They’re usually pretty small.  I don’t know what that is, but it looks like some kind of blister.”

“Well, if that’s not blood, then what is it?”

“I don’t know, lymph?”

“Why is it the color of blood?”  Thinking back, it probably wasn’t entirely fair for me to bug Nat about this.  He’s not a doctor.  But I had no one else to ask, and he knows a lot of things.

“I don’t know.”  The conversation ended there, but we picked it back up later.  Nat told me that if it was a blood blister, I was going to have to make sure to break up the clotted blood, and that it would really hurt.  Like worse than anything.  After another examination of my toe, I replied that my blood didn’t appear to have clotted.  This really only served to make things more confusing.

I’d say all that happened about a week ago, and since then, nothing has changed.  My toe still has a blood blister.  It doesn’t hurt, the blood isn’t clotted, and I’m not sure what to do.  I’m hesitant to poke around on the internet for information about the next course of action because to be honest, I don’t really want to see pictures of terrible things that have happened to other people’s toenails.  I also don’t want WebMD telling me that it’s some kind of rare cancer and I’m going to die in the next three days.  And so I turn to you, dear reader, for insight.  What do I do?  Wait for it to sort itself out, the way I would with a normal blister?  Drain it?  Amputate?  Share your wisdom.

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  1. Hi, no idea. You could post a pic i guess. I’d say leave it alone and protect it with band-aids, maybe thicker running socks, and see what happens in a week?

  2. My personal (and probably medically incorrect opinion) is to drain it. I just got my first blood blister on my foot this summer. Plenty of regular blisters but this one–I took off my sock and it was NASTY! The size of a quarter on the side of my foot! I drain everything though, to release pressure and start healing. I know you can probably get terrible infections, but I haven’t had any problems so far (knock on wood!). You could always go to a podiatrist for some professional care. My podiatrist is in my speed dial since I’ve had to have 2 toenails (permanently-ew!) removed due to running.

  3. I would assume its just a blood blister. I’ve only ever had purple collections under / around my toe nails and eventually they turn black… and then eventually fall off. I’ve gotten regular blisters on the side of my little toe. Maybe get one of those corn pads? Kinda protects te blister from being rubbed more?

  4. UGH. i used to get gnarly blood blisters from my cleats when i played soccer. they were not small, but HUGE. and i always had to pop, drain, and scrape them clean. otherwise the skin stayed stained purple. good luck!

  5. I’m with everone else…I would think blood blister. Maybe you should go and just have it looked at to be on the safe side. I don’t know why you would have lymph fluid on your toe? It may be blood and puss? Maybe that’s keeping it from clotting?? I hope you get it all sorted out soon. I know it has to be annoying.

  6. Yikes! I don’t know what that is, but in the meantime, I will give you the blister care instructions I got from a friend whose mother is a nurse: take a bit of a cotton ball and make a ring around the blister, then put a bandaid over that. It’ll keep the blister clean and protected, but the cotton will keep the bandaid elevated so the blister stays dry and air can still get to it.

  7. I would probably just treat it on my own, like a blister.
    If it was one of my runners that I coached who had it for a while, I would probably encourage them to get it looked at just to be safe.

    Do as I say… not as I do kinda thing!

    But I would also show it to my husband, who doesn’t have medical training. I think that’s what you’re supposed to do with significant others. “Look at this… does this look serious?” How else are you supposed to have a second opinion on if it’s changed over the course of days or weeks? Plus, when you’ve been together a while, you need enlightening conversation like that some evenings! 😉

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