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Cracked Heels - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Cracked heels are a common foot problem that are often referred to as heel fissures. Cracked heels are a sign of lack of attention to foot care rather than just overexposure or lack of moisturizing. Medically, cracked heels are also known as heel fissures. Fissures are regular linear cut wounds and mostly affect the surface level which comprises of the epidermis. Cracked heels are not a harmful in anyway except when the fissures or cracks are deep, and tend to become painful and the skin begins to bleed. This could lead to infection and is an avoidable situation mostly for those already suffering from chronic ailments such as diabetes or lowering immune system due to age or illness which may retard the treatment of cracked heels. Cracked heels are often referred to as fissures. When the fissures are deep, the skin bleeds easily and causes a lot of pain. Symptoms include a hard growth of skin, usually on the outer edge of the heel.

Cracked heels are a common occurrence for senior citizens or people who are constantly on their feet thus exerting pressure on the feet pad. Cracks mean initial, partial break or interruptions in continuity. Cracks are also medically termed as fissures. Fissures are regular linear cut wounds - mostly superficial which involve epidermis. Cracks in the skin can arise anywhere in the body. The commonest site is the rim of the heel and web of toes, which are the most frequently or constantly used parts of our body. Some of the more problematic cracked heels are ones where it is difficult to put weight on the affected foot. Wearing thin soled shoes can make these symptoms even worse. Moisturizing the feet regularly can prevent Cracked Heels. Once they occur, you can use a pumice stone daily to gently decrease the thick and flaky layer of skin.

Causes of Cracked heels

In some cases a person may have naturally dry skin that increases the risk of Cracked Heels. Callous that forms around the heel is prone to cracking due to mechanical factors that increase pressures in that area e.g the way a person walks. For example, someone working in construction jobs are at a greater risk due to the amount of pressure that they put on their feet.

Common causes and risk factors of Cracked heels:

  • Thyroid disease.
  • Inactive sweat glands.
  • Diabetes.
  • Unhygienic circumstances or conditions.
  • Prolonged standing.
  • Wearing shoes with an open back.
  • Eczema and psoriases can also be contributing factors.
  • High arched feet.

Signs and Symptoms of Cracked heels

Signs and symptoms that surface on the skin are simple indicators of a faulty internal activity or an external abuse. Cracks in the rim of the heel or soles or web of toes are the main symptoms. The length and width may vary depending upon the position and pressure exerted. The edges of the cracks are usually raised as crusts and resist healing. The edges or rim around the heel will generally have a thicker area of skin (callus). Wearing open or thin soled shoes usually make the symptoms worse.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Pain while walking.
  • Yellow or dark skin on the heel.
  • Increased pain in thin soles.
  • Itchy skin.
  • Discharges can occur in case of infection.

Treatment for Cracked heels

Cracked heels are more difficult to treat when the skin around the rim of the heel is thick. In Allopathy, mostly internal medicines are not prescribed. Only in extremely painful deep cracks, antibiotics are used to control the infection. But the course of antibiotics often manages the situation temporarily and the cracks recur once you stop the medicines. External applications like germicidal or bactericidal or antiseptic or steroids are also commonly prescribed.

Treatment may include:

  • Apply petroleum jelly or vaseline or parraffin oil after drying the area.
  • Use a pumice stone to reduce the thickness of the hard skin.
  • Apply a moisturizing cream twice daily to the affected heels, such as flexitol heel balm.
  • Avoid open backed shoes or thin soled shoes.
  • External applications like germicidal or bactericidal or antiseptic or steroids are also commonly prescribed. These applications also clear the complaint very temporarily i.e. while in use.
  • Take about three tablespoons of bees wax and mix one teaspoonful sesame oil in it. Warm it a little and apply on the affected areas.