Imagine a dry, parched, desert landscape. The ground is hard, with dust or sand covering a lot of it. In some places, you may even find the ground has split and cracked in the heat because it has grown brittle without moisture. The ground isn’t the only thing that becomes cracked and brittle without enough water. Dry skin can do the same thing, creating problems like heel fissures on your feet.
Cracks in the Heels
Skin needs moisture to stay flexible and withstand pressure or friction. Proper hydration allows the tissue to stretch and move. When the skin is dry, it stiffens and grows inflexible. Instead of moving or stretching under pressure, it splits. Your feet are particularly susceptible to this. Normally your skin is covered in oil glands to make sure its surface stays moisturized. Your feet, however, do not have these glands. Instead, your lower limbs rely on sweat to hydrate the surface of the feet.
Sweat is functional, but it isn’t as effective at moisturizing as your natural oils. As a result, your feet tend to be dry. Outside factors and medical conditions can exacerbate this dryness. Your heels are prone to building up calluses, which also tend to be dry and stiff. Pressure from standing and walking forces your skin to stretch. If it’s too hard and inflexible, it can crack instead, creating heel fissures.
The Problem with Broken Skin
In some cases, this is simply a cosmetic issue. Cracked skin is unsightly, but not always a problem. In some cases, however, it can create real heel pain and put you at risk for foot health complications. Your skin will be red and rough or flaky. Often it’s itchy. The fissures may bleed if they split deeply enough. Deep splits may make standing or walking around uncomfortable. Cracks make your feet more vulnerable to infections, too.
Many different environmental factors play a role in developing cracked heels. Excessively hot showers, hard soaps, cold weather, low humidity, aging, and spending long periods of time in the sun all draw moisture out from the surface of the skin. Medical conditions can predispose you to the problem as well. Diabetes, thyroid disease, psoriasis, and eczema, among others, also dry out your skin.
Moisture to Heal the Heels
Fortunately, dealing with heel pain from dry skin is fairly simple, though it can take a little time. Mark Gasparini, D.P.M., will examine your feet to help determine what led to your heel fissures and diagnose any complications. Then our staff will be able to help you treat the cracks and allow your skin to recover.
Any underlying conditions will need to be addressed for your feet to heal. If you have a medical condition that dries out the skin on your feet, you will need treatment to target that problem specifically. Then you’ll be able to moisturize your feet successfully. Make sure you wash your feet daily with gentle moisturizing soaps and pat your feet completely dry. Afterward, cover your feet with therapeutic oils, ointments, or creams, paying particularly close attention to your heels. Petroleum jelly, baby oil, and vegetable oils are easy options for moisturizers. For people without diabetes, short foot baths may help as well.
You may need to eliminate some of the callus build-up on the heels so the skin can grow over the fissures. Gently use a pumice stone to soften and grind down the thickened layers. You may need our team to help you with this, particularly if you have diabetes. Remember to drink plenty of water throughout the day to stay hydrated, too. If the cracks are deep and painful, you may need to have them treated with medication to prevent infection, then bandaged to encourage healing.
Dry skin is uncomfortable, no matter where it develops. On your feet, though, it puts you at risk for uncomfortable and potentially problematic heel fissures. Don’t let your feet dry out. Contact Foot Specialist of Long Island in Massapequa, New York, for more information or an appointment to take care of your feet. Just call (516) 804-9038 to reach us, or use the web request form.
Photo Credit: Satit_Srihin via FreeDigitalPhotos.net