When skin on the heel dries out, the skin can crack and become uncomfortable or painful. If left untreated, broken skin can become infected.
Cracked heels, also known as heel fissures, are a common foot problem. The condition is typically caused by a lack of moisture in the heels' skin.
Heel skin does not have sebaceous glands. These glands produce the protective oils which keep the skin hydrated. Without this protective layer, the skin around the heel can become dry and brittle. When pressure is applied, the skin splits and cracks - these cracks are also known as fissures. These fissures can vary in length and depth.
Symptoms of cracked heels include:
The condition itself is not severe, but fissures increase the risk of infections. Cracked heels can be painful when pressure is applied to the heel when walking or standing. In some cases, heel fissures can bleed. If your cracks bleed, ask a pharmacist about bandages. If you experience pain in the heels for more than a few days, you should arrange for an appointment to see your GP. Your GP may refer to a podiatrist - this is a doctor who specialises in feet.
Cracked heels start as dry skin, which forms to protect the sensitive skin underneath. The dry skin which forms on the surface is often called a callus. A callus often develops where repeated friction occurs, such as the place where a shoe has been rubbing against your foot.
Factors which can increase the risk of heels cracking include:
Cracked heels can be prevented by making small changes to your lifestyle.
Wearing shoes which fit prevents friction between your feet and footwear. Wearing cotton socks with shoes can also prevent your shoes from rubbing and remain comfortable. Avoid open-back shoes such as sandals or flip-flops, as these can exacerbate your symptoms. Closed-back shoes with adequate padding are ideal.
When washing, avoid spending too long in the bath or shower. Avoid washing more than once a day. Standing for long periods in damp environments, such as a bathroom, can increase your risk of developing cracked heels. Clean your feet with a soft sponge and use a gentle soap. Avoid friction by dabbing your feet dry after a shower.
Changing your diet and losing weight can also benefit the skin and lessen the stress applied to the heel, decreasing the chances of developing dry skin or cracked heels.
If you are diabetic, you should take extra care of your feet. Diabetes can decrease blood flow to the feet and cause nerve damage to the feet. The condition can also increase the risk of infection in the feet. Keeping your sugar levels under control can also help to improve your skin and lower your risk of infection.
Using a moisturiser can prevent dry skin. You can also use moisturising soaps in the bath or shower.
We offer two creams for dry skin called Eucerin Intensive and Aquadrate. Both of these treatments contain an emollient known as urea. When absorbed by the skin, urea binds to water in the skin, preventing the water from evaporating and keeping the skin hydrated.
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