Cracked heels appear as splitting of the skin around the heel of the foot. They most often occur around the heels. It is probably best described as dry cracked foot and heel skin which can often turn out to be quite painful.
When the skin around the heel becomes dry, it loses it's suppleness and elasticity, and often begins to split.
This condition is commonly associated with heel callus (ie. a build-up of dead skin). The cracks in the heel can become quite painful depending on their severity, and may bleed and can sometimes become infected.
Cracked heels often occur when wearing a particular type of footwear, such as thongs, sling-back or open backed sandals, or bare feet. The skin around the heel is exposed to the air and allows callus and dry skin formation. The sole of the shoe can contribute to callus formation. Hard leather soled shoes can aggravate the problem.
Cracked heels are a common complaint during the warmer summer months.
Another cause often overlooked is hypothyroidism. This is a hormonal imbalance where the body either produces no thyroid hormone or insufficient quantities. One of the side effects of this condition is very dry skin which can and often does cause dry cracked heels. Other side effects can include hair loss, unexpected weight gain and loss of energy and libido amongst other things. It is important to have your doctor conduct appropriate blood tests if you suspect your dry skin condition is a symptom of this hormonal imbalance.
Removal of the excessive build of heel callus is required for effective treatment results. Regular treatment is recommended to identify and prevent potential problems. Your Podiatrist is specifically trained to perform this function.
Your Podiatrist will often recommend an appropriate moisturiser to be used on a daily basis. There are many skin moisturisers on the market. Sorbolene cream and urea based preparations are just some types that are often used.
An antiseptic liquid or cream may be required if the cracks are very deep or have become infected.
Appropriate footwear should be worn. Avoid the prolonged use of thongs or bare feet, and wear sandals with enclosed heel counters where possible.
Wear stockings or socks whenever possible.
Adequate water intake and essential fatty acids within your diet (e.g. Omega 3 fatty acids) may assist in preventing dryness and cracking by helping to keep the skin hydrated. Dietary advice may be needed to ensure you get the essential fatty acids and nutrients your skin needs.
Referral to other health professionals may be necessary where this condition is caused by nutritional or other medical disorders. Thyroxine medication may be needed where the dry skin and cracked heels are caused by a thyroid disorder.
WARNING : This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace professional podiatric advice. Treatment will vary between individuals depending upon your diagnosis and presenting complaint. An accurate diagnosis can only be made following personal consultation with a Podiatrist, your Doctor or your foot specialist.
Still unsure about your problem? Visit our Foot Problems page and ask us a question about your specific problem. We'll do our best to help.
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