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The FootSmart Health Resource Center

Dry Skin

FootSmart Health Facts from The Podiatry Institute
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Dry skin, usually the culprit behind cracked heels, commonly appears on such areas of the feet as the soles and heels.

Causes:
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While dry skin is not a dangerous condition, it can become painful, and if the cracking starts to bleed, it can lead to infection – an especially serious problem for anyone with a chronic disease such as diabetes, or a lowered immune system due to age or illness.

Dry skin can result from a variety of reasons:

  • Age
  • Improperly fitting shoes
  • Athlete's foot
  • Psoriasis
  • Thyroid disease
  • Diabetes
  • Certain skin conditions
  • Household heat that reduces humidity and dries out the skin
Symptoms:
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You most likely have dry skin if your feet display the following symptoms:

  • Red or flaky patches
  • Peeling and cracked skin
  • Itchy skin

Since sufferers of athlete's foot display similar symptoms, check for blistering around your toes. If you see any blistering, you most likely have the fungal infection commonly referred to as athlete's foot, and need to use an anti-bacterial ointment to treat its symptoms. (See the Athlete's Foot or Itchy Feet pages for more information.)

Relief and Prevention:
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The best way to treat and also prevent dry, cracked skin on your feet is to use good therapeutic ointments and creams. Avoid using lotions, as these often contain alcohol, which actually dries the skin out more.

Additional therapies include the following:

  • Use a pumice stone or sand stone to file the hard dry skin, allowing the moisturizers to better penetrate the skin.
  • Use creams especially designed for nighttime use, and wear socks to help the cream better absorb into your skin while
    you sleep.
  • Check your shoes for tight spots and areas that rub. Use insoles and other corrective devices to eliminate points of friction.
  • Wear comfortable shoes.

Make sure you avoid getting cream and ointment between your toes, as the additional moisture can lead to bacterial infections such as athlete's foot. If the dry skin and cracking worsen, or bleeding occurs, consult a physician.

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