Cracked Heels

When people think about the wide range of foot and ankle problems we treat here at Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma, it might seem as though dry skin is not that important. However, excessive dryness poses an increased risk of infection and can cause pain.

Cracked heels are an example of a skin condition we treat for patients. Understanding more about the causes and prevention methods for this issue can help you avoid potentially serious and/or painful medical issues.

Problems with Excessively Dry Feet

Individuals who have excessively dry heels may experience such symptoms as peeling skin, itchiness, rashes, calluses, cracking, and/or fissures. Cracks and heel fissures often cause discomfort or pain while walking or even from simply standing, especially when done for prolonged periods or on hard surfaces. An even bigger concern than the pain, though, is that cracks and fissures create openings for microorganisms and possible infections.

It is important to also note that skin dryness can sometimes be a symptom of a medical issue, such as diabetes, thyroid disease, or athlete’s foot.

Main Causes of Dry Skin                                        

Dryness tends to be a more frequent issue for feet than it does for other body parts. A primary reason for this is the fact that the skin on your feet does not contain the oil glands found elsewhere on the human body that are used to moisturize the skin. Instead, the lower limbs rely on hundreds of thousands of sweat glands to serve this function. This can be a problem because sweat is not as effective or long-lasting as oil for keeping skin moist.

Other common factors that result in excessive dryness include:

  • Long and/or hot baths or showers
  • Harsh, non-moisturizing soaps
  • Eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues
  • Low levels of humidity at home or in the office
  • Overexposure to UV light

Individuals Most at Risk

Some individuals have a greater risk for developing excessively dry feet and heels. As we age, our skin has a reduced elasticity (ability to stretch), which contributes to the formation of cracked heels. Accordingly, older patients are considerably more likely to have cracking or fissure issues than younger demographics.

Excess weight and abnormal gait styles place extra pressure on the lower appendages, which in turn displaces moisture and leads to callusing. Individuals who have deficiencies of certain minerals and vitamins in their diet are more likely to have skin dryness and breakdown. Diabetic individuals are at a particularly heightened risk.

Diabetic Concerns and Related Conditions

If you have diabetes, dry feet are a matter of increased concern. The cracks and fissures that typically accompany dryness increase the risk of infection and skin breakdown from a lack of adequate moisture, which can then result in the development of foot ulcers. This is an especially dangerous issue, as an ulcer that becomes infected might ultimately require limb amputation.

Treatment and Prevention for Dry Skin

There is a fair amount of overlap when it comes to both treatment and prevention methods for dry foot skin issues. Conservative care for excessively dry feet includes the liberal use of moisturizers, pumice stone debriding, and applying bandages or coverings over fissures or cracks to prevent bacterial growth. Custom orthotics can also be used to redistribute abnormal pressure on the heel that could potentially cause issues.

It is important to know that we strongly advise against attempting to remove a callus on your own with the use of “home surgery.” Done improperly, this can result in either excessive skin removal or potential infection.

Sensible prevention steps include:

  • Limit the time and temperatures of your baths or showers.
  • Avoid the urge to wash your feet too frequently.
  • Moisturize after bathing or showering.
  • Wear shoes and socks that wick moisture and allow your feet to breathe.

Professional Foot Care in Oklahoma City

Our OKC podiatrist office provides effective treatment for a wide range of foot and ankle issues, including skin and nail conditions. If you are struggling with taking care of your dry skin, let us help. We can provide the care you need and create a plan to help you avoid the pain and risk of infection that comes with fissured or cracked heels. Contact Foot & Ankle Center of Oklahoma today by calling (405) 418-2676 or schedule your appointment with us online.

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Oklahoma City Office:
609 W Memorial Rd.
Oklahoma City, OK 73114

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