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Martin Foot & Ankle

Cracked Heels

Dry, cracked heelsYour feet are supposed to take you where you want to go, preferably without hurting while they are doing it. The fact is, however, that most people will experience pain in their lower extremities at some point in their lives. Sometimes is it due to a condition inside your feet, like a broken bone, sprained ligament, or torn tendon. Other times, it is your dry skin that causes problems, especially when it is extreme enough to cause cracked heels.

Why Heel Fissures Form

The back of your sole is protected by a fat pad beneath the skin, but long hours on your feet or being overweight can cause a lot of stress on it and make it bulge out to the sides. This happens even more easily when you wear backless shoes or sandals.

Combine that with overly dry skin that is no longer elastic, and the stress can cause the skin to split. Just tiny lines form at first, but the longer it goes untreated, the bigger and deeper the cracks become, until they can extend into the lower layers of your skin and start to bleed. This opens your foot to bacteria and other infections.

Risk Factors for Cracked Heels

You may have inherited a tendency to have dry skin. Heredity may also have “blessed” you with a certain gait that puts more pressure on your heels. Add years of walking around on hard surfaces, or with shoes that don’t fully protect your feet, and you have the recipe for skin problems on your heels.

People with diabetes are more likely to have dry skin because the disease damages nerves that signal perspiration (the moisturizing agent for your feet). Thyroid problems can cause dryness as well, and dry skin cracks instead of contracting and expanding with pressure.

How to Heal Dry Skin on Your Feet

The best way to deal with dry skin is with moisturizers that keep it soft and pliable. Start with a heavy oil, cream, or petroleum jelly and apply after your morning shower, and at night before you go to bed so your body can work to repair the tissue while you sleep. Protect your feet with socks to hold in the moisture during the day.

If you have a thick callus buildup on the soles of your feet, you can use a pumice stone to gently abrade it after your shower. Removing excess callus is necessary to help the fissures heal, but never do it by cutting or shaving with anything sharp.

When to Let the Experts Treat Your Heel Fissures

If the cracks are deep, bleeding, or showing any sign of infection, don’t wait. Call our office for an appointment to have them treated. The same prompt attention is necessary if you have diabetes, because a simple crack could turn into a limb-threatening ulcer if it is not tended to. Simply dial (717) 757-3537 to set up your visit at our Hanover, York, or Lancaster, PA office, or schedule right here through our website.

For more information about your feet and what ails them, follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Google+, and you can also request our free book, A Step In the Right Direction: A User's Guide to Foot and Ankle Health.
Dr. Maria Ann Kasper
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