One of the most unexpectedly painful injuries is a paper cut. Even if it isn’t deep, the sudden separation of your skin stings and makes that area difficult to use. While people don’t normally develop paper cuts on their feet, other things can cause the skin to split painfully apart in a similar way. In your feet, this generally occurs in places where the skin is already dried out. Something adds pressure and your tissues are not strong enough to hold everything in place. Suddenly you have developed heel fissures.
Cracking, Breaking Skin
Heel fissures are cracks in the skin around the heel. When the skin where the back and bottoms of the heel meet becomes dry and thickened, it is not able to stretch as much as needed when under pressure. Instead it forms calluses that can flake. When the pressure becomes too strong and nothing is supporting or cushioning the foot, the skin splits and leaves deep cracks that can bleed. Not only are these cracks painful, but they open the body to infections.
Age, vitamin deficiency, diabetes, kidney and thyroid disease, excess weight, and preexisting skin conditions all increase your risk of developing cracked heels. The more you wear open-backed shoes, too, the less support your tissues have. Over time, the natural fatty pads in your heels become compressed and bulge more to the sides when you step. Without anything to help the skin hold them back, this extra outward pressure can lead to cracks. Once cracks develop, continued pressure on the back of the foot can make them bigger and deeper, and you’ll need targeted intervention to guard against infection and get your skin to heal.
Sealing the Splits
You will need to moisturize the skin on your heels for the cracks to be able to come together and prevent new ones from forming. Lotions, ointments, baby oils, petroleum jelly, and some natural oils all work well. Apply them liberally to your heels, then put on thick, clean socks to prevent quick evaporation. If the skin doesn’t seem to be recovering, you may need to have the dead, thickened calluses carefully cleared away. We can do this for you or teach you how to do it yourself so you do not cause additional damage. You should also drink plenty of water to stay hydrated.
If the fissures are deep and painful, you may need to have them bandaged to hold the cracks together as new skin grows, and to prevent infection. This is especially important for anyone who struggles with a compromised immune system, like those with diabetes. Our doctors may also look into the factors contributing to the problem, to see if the extra pressure on the heel can be relieved.
If your feet are dry, especially around the back, you could be at risk for heel fissures. These deep cracks can make it harder for you to stand or walk, as well as leave your body vulnerable to infection. If you notice your skin flaking and cracking, don’t ignore the problem until the splits are deep and dangerous. Instead, contact Advanced Foot & Ankle Specialists of Arizona right away for an appointment or more information. You can reach either of our two offices by visiting the online contact page, calling, or sending a fax. For the Chandler location, call (480) 963-9000 or fax to (480) 963-0375; for the Gilbert location, call (480) 981-1800 or fax to (480) 981-0229.