When people think about the care they can receive from a Medford, OR podiatrist, treatment for sports injuries or issues that impact mobility might come to mind. These are certainly important parts of a podiatry practice, but here at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. we are also able to treat skin and nail issues. Heel fissures is one example of a skin condition we treat for patients. Understanding more about the causes and prevention methods for this condition can help you keep pain—and possibly a serious infection—away from your feet.
How Cracked Heels Develop
Some of the specific causes that lead to heel fissures include hot showers, dry air, being overweight, and spending long hours on your feet. Sandals and open-backed shoes expose the skin to air and can contribute to a worsening condition.
Unlike other areas of the body, feet do not have oil glands to keep the skin moist. Instead, they rely on sweat glands for moisture. This is important, because open air causes the sweat to evaporate, which is useful for keeping feet cool, but at the same time it dries out the skin.
Skin that is excessively dry begins to lose its natural elasticity. Calluses—which are simply hard, thickened patches of dead skin—tend to form in areas that face excessive pressure. Both of these conditions can combine in the heel area to lead to a situation where the skin doesn’t give like it should, but rather begins to develop tiny cracks, which are known as fissures. Left untreated, fissures will continue widening until deeper layers of skin have been exposed. Once a crack has reached the capillaries, bleeding may be present.
How to Prevent Heel Fissures
In order to prevent issues and reduce the risk of infection, it is wise to take preventative measures. Some ways to keep skin conditioned include:
Washing the feet daily with warm (not hot) water and a moisturizing or mild soap
Gently using a pumice stone to debride callused areas and then rinsing
Moisturizing the affected area after washing, debriding, and rinsing
Protecting the feet by not spending all day in sandals, open-back shoes, or footwear with thin soles, and not walking barefoot
Before going to bed at night, take some time to wash, dry, and moisturize once again. After applying moisturizer, put on socks and wear them overnight while you sleep to help trap in the moisture. When using moisturizing creams or lotion, avoid the areas between the toes so as to reduce your risk of viral or fungal infections that thrive in moist, warm environments.
Treating Cracked Heels
In the case of mild heel fissures, you can follow the same regimen that is used to prevent them in the first place to also treat them. You might consider using a lotion or cream that is oilier or thicker. If the cracks are severe, you may need to come in for professional treatment at our office.
Additional considerations when it comes to dry foot skin include aging, hydration, obesity, tobacco usage, and various medical conditions. Part of becoming older is that skin is more likely to become dry. Hydration can help, but conversely, not drinking enough water contributes to the problem. Both being overweight and smoking are issues that take away skin’s natural elasticity.
It is also important to recognize the symptoms of conditions like diabetes, psoriasis, vitamin deficiency, and kidney or thyroid disease for various reasons, one of which is that they are known to dry out skin.
Professional Heel Fissure Care in Medford, OR
There are certainly instances, especially mild cases, where you can take care of heel fissures on your own, but severe cases and diabetic individuals will benefit from professional treatment. If either of these apply to you—or you simply would like more information—don’t hesitate to contact Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, L.L.C. We provide skilled, first-class foot and ankle care for an array of issues, including those affecting the skin on your lower extremities.
Feel free to either call our Medford, OR office at (541) 776-3338 or use our online form to request your appointment and find the help you need today!