Compared to other foot and ankle conditions and injuries we treat, dry skin might not seem to be a terribly big deal. The truth of the matter, though, is dry skin can be a problem. This is the case even for otherwise healthy individuals, but excessive dryness can be outright dangerous for individuals who are diabetic!
No matter if you have diabetes or not, cracks and fissures in your heel can be quite painful. Further, they increase your risk of infection – especially when the cracks run deep.
The good news about this condition is found in the fact treating and preventing dry skin really isn’t that difficult to achieve.
Let’s start by looking at some of the reasons dry skin happens in the first place:
- No oil glands. Whereas the skin covering the majority of your body relies on oil glands to stay moist, this is not the case for your feet. Instead, they use hundreds of thousands of sweat glands. This can work well enough, but it’s not the same. The key issue is simply the fact that sweat evaporates (which—in the context of fungal infection prevention—can be a good thing at times). When it does, your skin can dry out.
- Seasonal changes. Winter air is simply drier than the air in other seasons. This is important to know as we head into the heart of winter. You simply need to give greater priority to preventative measures during the colder months of the year.
- Diabetes. This particular disease causes widespread, systemic damage in the human body. One system particularly affected is the nervous system. Excessive sugar in the bloodstream damages nerves, including those responsible for controlling the aforementioned sweat glands in your feet. When diabetes causes nerve damage, your central nervous system (brain and spinal column) does not communicate with peripheral nerves in the correct manner. In turn, sweat glands do not know to produce the sweat necessary to keep your skin from drying out.
So now that you know some of the reasons your heels can become dried and cracked, how can you treat an existing condition?
Your starting point with cracked heel treatment is to use a thick, heavy moisturizing cream or lotion on your heels. Apply the moisturizing agent to your heels following your shower or bath and once again at night before going to bed. To better trap in moisture, you may want to put on socks and wear them overnight after applying the cream or lotion.
Along with moisturizing, you can use a pumice stone to debride calluses and rough, dried skin – as long as you are not diabetic!
When using a pumice stone, start by wetting the stone and then apply light pressure as you rub it in circles on the area you are treating. Keep the pressure light and do not rub for more than a couple of minutes. Your goal is not to debride the dead skin in a single session.
If moisturizing and debriding at home are not providing the results you hope to see—or you have diabetes—come see Associates in Podiatry and we can provide professional treatment for you.
With regards to preventing dry heels, you need to follow a couple of simple steps:
- Mind your bath or shower temperatures and duration – Long, hot showers and baths sap moisture from your skin.
- Moisturize – As with treatment, using a proper moisturizing agent keeps your skin from excessive drying in the first place.
- Manage your blood sugar – As noted earlier, too much sugar in the bloodstream damages nerves. Keep your nerves healthy, safe, and functioning in an optimal manner by not consuming too much sugar in your diet.
That all being said, too much moisture can also be a problem (since it contributes to fungal infections). It is important to strike the right balance – and we can help!
For more information, contact our team at Associates in Podiatry. Call our Princeton office at (609) 924-8333 or our Roselle Park office at (908) 687-5757, or connect with us online today.