Dry, Cracked Skin in the Feet
by Bruce Lashley
The skin contains a balance of water and fat to ensure its
health. However, once this balance is disturbed, the skin can become dry and
cracked. This imbalance results in the inability of the skin to stretch
properly. Extreme dryness of the skin can cause cracking. Since the skin is a
protective barrier for the body, the cracking can lead to painful lesions and a
potential area for bacteria to hide and cause infections. Thus, hydrating the
skin is very important in maintaining the overall health of the body.
Symptoms of Dry Skin
Generally, dry skin is dull and appears tight. In cases of severe
dry skin, the texture can be rough with flaky scales and cracking. This can
result in itchiness, skin breakage, and pain.
Causes of Dry Skin
Dry skin is caused by many factors, these are categorized in two ways. There
are causes that are from outside of the body such as climate (low temperature
and low humidity), environment, lifestyle, and age. The second category are
causes from inside the body such as genetics, medication, hormone changes, and
disease. Additionally, dry, scaly skin can be a result of fungal infections that
may be treated by a podiatrist with prescription anti-fungal medications.
Cracking of the skin is commonly found on the heels of the feet. This is
caused by the enormous amount of body pressure that occurs when the heel strikes
the ground. Therefore, the heels, more than any other part of the foot, need the
most attention and daily care.
Since there are so many medications used to treat dry skin, the
choice of what to use can be overwhelming. One thing holds true for most dry
skin treatment; the goal is to increase water content of skin. Skin
moisturizers, also known as emollients, maintain the skin cell connections, and
thus, decrease scaling and cracking.
1. Skin Ointments: This treatment is greasy and does not mix well with
water. Ointments are the most effective product and longer lasting, but may be
undesirable because of its greasiness.
2. Skin Creams: This is the most common type of moisturizer. Creams can be
blended with water. This form of therapy may be preferred over ointments due to
the ease of application and the nature of the cream to blend into the skin.
3. Callus Ointments: This type of treatment for dry skin can be plant based
or chemical based. Plant-based callus ointments remove and soften thick, dry
skin using plant enzymes and are safe for diabetics. Chemical based callus
ointments are used to remove and moisturize the skin at the same time,
especially thick skin. However, caution must be noted when using chemical-based
callus ointments because it can cause increase breakdown of skin in diabetics
and are NOT recommended on open wounds, infected area, or inflamed skin.
4. Foot pumice stone followed by moisturizers: Foot pumice stones are
recommended to be used in the shower when the skin has softened by the contact
with water. The stone is rubbed against the skin, and produces friction that
removes the thick skin.
5. Scalpel Debridement on Thick Skin: If the skin thickness is painful and
severe, a podiatrist may use a scalpel with a blade to remove the dry hard skin.
However, it must be noted that the use of a scalpel should be performed by a
Ways to Decrease Dry Skin
1. Avoid hot long showers and baths because the hot water can melt the
natural oils out of the skin. Once the oils have been
depleted continued contact with the water will suck the moisture from your skin.
2. Apply emollients to the skin daily.
3. Use of humidifiers to keep moisture in the air can prevent dry skin.
4. Wear socks to bed.
5. Do not pick at dry skin because it can result in damage to the skin and
cause an infection.
6. Avoid wearing non-supportive sandals for long periods of time.