What are cracked heels?
As the name suggests, cracked heels are heels that have developed cracks or 'splits'; these are also referred to as fissures. Heel cracks are linear and appear on the border of the heel, as time goes on these cracks become deep, painful and can bleed. Cracked heels are associated with very dry skin and a loss of elasticity. If left untreated the cracks can provide a portal for infection.
What causes cracked heels?
Cracked heels are caused when the skin becomes too dry; this combined with the forces acting on the heel as a result of walking and standing cause the skin to crack and split, producing what are known as fissures (think of what would happen if you pushed down on a tomato that was no longer ripe; the skin would split much in the same way as the skin on the heel). Fissures are deep cracks that are typically found on the heel border.
Some people are more prone to developing heel fissures than others, they include:
- People who stand for long periods of time
- People who wear open back footwear
- People who are overweight
Autonomic neuropathy is another cause of dry skin and heel fissures. Autonomic neuropathy occurs as a result of damage to the peripheral nervous system, in the foot this may result in a reduction in sweat production, leading to dry skin. Examples of conditions that can lead to autonomic neuropathy include:
- Diabetic neuropathy
- Alcoholic neuropathy
- Parkinsons disease
- Guillain Barr Syndrome
- Use of anticholinergic medications
- Chronic idiopathic anhidrosis
- People with certain medical conditions, for example; diabetes, hypothyroidism, psoriasis and eczema
What should I do if I have cracked heels?
If you have cracked heels it is important that you get them treated. One of our podiatrists here at Manchester Podiatry will be able to help you.
Podiatry treatment for cracked heels
Cracked heels can easily be treated by one of our podiatrists, this may be done with either sharp debridement using a scalpel blade, aggressive filing, or a combination of the two, as well as intensive emollient therapy; this means moisturisation. The treatment for cracked heels is painless.
It is important that you visit a podiatrist if you have cracked heels, as the underlying cause must be addressed. Over the counter remedies for cracked heels do not treat the cause, many are also not suitable for diabetics and those with reduced circulation.