Cracked heels, commonly referred to as heel fissures are one of the most common foot disorders affecting us, and is also one of the most commonly ignored conditions. How seldom do we stop to think how our poor feet handle the wear and tear of daily life.
All the running around, standing for long hours, followed by lack of feet care conduces to formation of fissures on the feet. Cracked heels are often dismissed casually as they are not deleterious, however, they can conduce to a perpetually painful problem. Though it doesn't cause any harm, it looks ugly and often poses as a cosmetic problem.
What Causes Cracked Dry Heels?
Dry skin around the rim of the heels leads to abnormal thickening and fissuring of the skin. Inactive sweat glands also cause the heels to dry up and crack. Standing for extended hours tend to damage the sweat glands and dry the heels.
Prolonged standing leads to application of constant pressure on the heels, thereby resulting in development of cracks. Moreover, obese people have a lot of extra weight on the legs and feet. This extra weight also conduces to the damage of sweat glands.
Some disorders and diseases inflicting the body such as hypothyroidism, diabetes, psoriasis, athlete's foot, eczema or atopic dermatitis, juvenile plantar dermatosis, heel spurs, etc., can also result in drying of the heel skin. Improperly aligned metatarsal bones is another factor that can cause this condition.
People on antihistamines and diuretics are also seen to be affected by dry heels. The aging process also results in gradual damage of sweat glands occurring in the feet. Deficiency of essential vitamins and minerals in the body results in inadequate provision of nutrients to the skin, which is why drying and scaling of skin is seen.
Of all the factors conducing to this condition, diabetes and obesity are the major causative factors. Uncontrolled levels of sugar in diabetic people result in damage of nerves in the feet. This damage results in dry skin, which further leads to cracked heels. Moreover, diabetic people are more vulnerable to sustain infections related to fissured heels.
Obese people on the other hand, have a lot of body weight being concentrated on the two heel pads. As the weight and pressure increases, the heel pads are pressed outwards and end up expanding laterally. The dry skin in the feet is unable to withstand the pressure and ends up getting ruptured.
Besides these factors, various environmental factors like exposure to extremely cold outdoor temperatures or excessively dry indoor heat, can also cause the heel to crack. Constantly wearing open-back sandals (mostly women) on a daily basis can also be a causative factor.
Moreover, improper self care and hygiene maintenance, that is not washing the legs after reaching home from a dusty trip around the city, etc., are also some of its causes.
Heel fissures are initially very small, however, constant negligence causes them to deepen and widen. Depending on one's skin type, the color of dry skin varies from yellow to dark brown. Red, flaky, itchy patches on the skin are also seen. Peeling and cracking of the heel skin follows.
The outer edge of the heel becomes hard and as the fissures deepen they begin to bleed and become painful. The pain intensifies while walking, running, etc. If the cracks are not treated, infections caused by bacteria and viruses can occur.
The market is flooded with all kinds of treatments for this condition. Various exfoliance and moisturizers are available in supermarkets and drug stores, manufactured to treat dry, cracked, and fissured heels. Several ayurvedic products are also available. One can either try these products or look for natural measures to treat the aching foot.
For softening the heels one can try out some simple remedies like soaking one's feet in lemon juice for 10 minutes.
While treating this condition one needs to be patient. Never let impatience overrule! Some people succumb to impatience and end up chipping their cracks with scissors, blades, and other sharp objects. However, this practice will only worsen the condition.
Disclaimer: This is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.