When one considers the wide range of foot and ankle problems an individual can sustain, dry skin might not seem particularly important. Excessive dryness can cause pain, however, and poses the risk of infection when left untreated. Whether you have an existing problem with it or not, you can capitalize on some simple prevention measures to keep you safe from harm.
Individuals who have excessive dryness on their feet or heels may experience such symptoms as peeling skin, cracked heels, fissures, calluses, itchiness, and even rashes. Cracks and heel fissures can lead to discomfort or pain during standing or walking, especially over prolonged periods. Even more concerning than the pain, though, is that they create openings for microorganisms.
It is important to also keep in mind that skin dryness is sometimes a symptom of a medical issue, like diabetes, thyroid disease, or athlete’s foot.
The Main Causes of Dry Feet
Dry skin is frequently more of an issue with feet than with other body parts. A big reason behind this is the fact that the skin on your feet does not possess the oil glands found elsewhere on the human body that are used to moisturize the skin. Instead, your lower appendages rely on hundreds of thousands of sweat glands to serve this function. This can be a problem because sweat is not as long-lasting or effective as oil.
Other common factors that lead to excessive dryness include:
- Low levels of humidity at home or in the office
- Overexposure to UV light
- Long and/or hot baths or showers
- Harsh, non-moisturizing soaps
- Eczema, psoriasis, and other skin issues
Individuals Most at Risk
Some individuals have a heightened risk for developing excessively dry feet and heels. As we age, our skin has a reduced ability to stretch. Accordingly, older adults are more likely to have issues with cracks or fissures than younger demographics.
Abnormal gait styles and excess weight place extra pressure on the lower appendages, which in turn displaces moisture and leads to calluses. Those who have deficiencies of certain vitamins and minerals are more likely to have skin breakdown and dryness. Diabetic individuals are at a heightened risk, which stems from an impairment of the body’s ability to moisturize itself.
Diabetic Concerns and Related Conditions
When it comes to diabetic individuals, skin dryness is of particular concern. The fissures and cracks that typically accompany dryness increase the risk of infection, and skin breakdown from a lack of adequate moisture can result in foot ulcers. A foot ulcer is an especially dangerous issue, one that might ultimately result in amputation.
Treatment and Prevention for Dry Skin
Preventing skin from drying out uses many of the same methods as treating it. Conservative care for dry feet includes liberally using moisturizers, performing pumice stone debriding, and applying bandages or coverings to prevent bacterial growth. Custom orthotics can also be used to redistribute abnormal pressure on the heel, which would otherwise result in issues.
We strongly recommend that you do not attempt to remove a callus or dry skin tissue on your own with the use of “home surgery.” Done improperly, this can result in either excessive skin removal or potential infection.
Sensible prevention steps include:
- Limiting the time and temperatures of your baths or showers. Long, hot baths or showers may feel great, but they often remove natural oils that help keep your skin soft and smooth.
- Avoiding the use of harsh soaps. Mild soaps with added oils help prevent dryness.
- Moisturizing after bathing or showering. Generally thicker creams work better during the day and ointments containing petroleum jelly can be used at night.
- Wearing shoes and socks that wick moisture and allow your feet to breathe.
Professional Foot Care in Austin, TX
Our podiatry offices in Austin, TX effectively treat our patients for a wide range of foot and ankle issues, including skin and nail conditions. When you are struggling with taking care of your dry skin, let our experts help. We can provide the care you need and create a plan that helps you avoid the pain and risk of infection that comes with cracking heel fissures. Contact Austin Foot and Ankle Specialists today by calling (512) 328-8900 or schedule your appointment with us online.