What are blistering skin conditions?

Blisters are fluid-filled lesions on the skin and mucous membranes. Blisters may break or the roof of the blister may become detached forming an erosion.  They can occur in a number of diseases including traumatic injury, burns, sunburn, infections, insect bites, allergic reactions, drug reactions, autoimmune diseases and genetic disorders.  Although blistering skin conditions are uncommon, they can have a profound impact on the patient and their family.

Types of blistering skin conditions


  • This is a group of autoimmune diseases where your body produces antibodies against the skin and mucous membranes which cause blistering and erosion
  • Bullous pemphigoid is the most common immunobullous disease, typically affecting people over the age of 70


  • There are a variety of causes of non-immunobullous blistering conditions such as:
    • Bacterial and viral infection including impetigo, herpes simplex and chickenpox
    • Medications
    • Inflammatory diseases such as eczema pomphylx, lichen planus and lichen sclerosus
    • Metabolic diseases such as diabetes and kidney disease
    • Infiltrative diseases such as amyloidosis and Sweet’s syndrome

What investigations are used in the diagnosis of blistering conditions?

Investigations include skin biopsy, blood tests and microbiological studies.  Generally, the diagnosis relies on a skin biopsy for histopathology of the lesions.

Management of blistering skin conditions

Non-immunobullous causes of blisters may be amenable to treatment in a general practice setting, however most blistering skin conditions require referral to a dermatologist for management.  The management varies greatly depending on the type of disease present.

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