Cracks in the heels and bottoms of the feet are referred to medically as fissures. They are formed when dry, hardened, or thick skin on the sides or bottoms of the feet crack and break open. Depending on how deep the cracks run and what underlying health problems a patient has, fissures can either be a simple cosmetic nuisance or a serious medical condition. They are often painful and can cause bleeding if they are deep enough. In a diabetic patient they are particularly concerning as they can lead to skin ulcers, placing those patients at risk for infection and even amputations in serious cases. The basic underlying cause of skin fissures is the skin losing its moisture content then drying out.
Common conditions that predispose people to developing skin fissures are:
- Fungal infections
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Peripheral Vascular Disease
Knowing what to look for in relation to skin fissures can help avoid more serious complications in at risk patient such as diabetics and those with vascular disease. Catching a skin fissure early makes it dramatically easier to treat.
See a Doctor for you skin fissure if you notice any of the associated signs:
- Pain while walking or standing
- Bleeding from the fissure
- Signs of infection such as swelling, redness or drainage
- Thick discolored, often dark, hardened skin around the fissure
- A crack in the skin that doesn’t resolve on its own after one week
Although some people are prone to the development of skin fissures on their feet because of underlying conditions there are still things that can be done to avoid or decrease the chance of forming them. The best form of treatment is to keep the cracks from occurring in the first place.
- Check feet daily. At the first sign of cracking apply moisturizing cream 2-3 times per day.
- A pumice stone can be used to gently scrub the hardened skin prior to applying cream.
- Wearing gel heel socks is a great way to continuously add moisture to your heels all day.
- Avoid wearing open backed shoes and sandals.
- Stay hydrated.
- Avoid prolonged standing, especially on hard surfaces
Deeper skin fissures or those that do not resolve on their own within a week, especially for at risk patients, need to be treated by a medical professional to avoid any serious complications. If you have concerns about dry, cracked feet, the doctors at Foot and Ankle Associates at North Texas (FAANT) are experienced in treating skin fissures and have helped many patients resolve this condition!