Heel Fissures

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      Cracked heels, also known as fissures, can be a nuisance but can occasionally lead to more serious problems if left untreated. Treat them by giving your feet a little more attention, beginning with moisturizing them at least twice a day. Look for thick moisturizers (Eucerin, Cetaphil, others). Some moisturizers contain skin-softening agents, such as urea, salicylic acid or alpha hydroxy acid, which may help remove dead skin. They may cause slight stinging or irritation.

      Give your heels extra attention before going to bed: Soak your feet for about 10 minutes in plain or soapy water and pat dry. Then gently rub your heels with a loofah or foot scrubber to help remove dead skin. Apply a heavier, oil-based cream or petroleum jelly (Vaseline, Aquaphor Healing Ointment, others), then slip on a pair of thin cotton socks at bedtime to help the moisturizer work.

      Don't ignore dry, cracked heels, as over time you may develop deeper fissures, which increases your risk of infection. If self-care measures don't help, talk with your doctor about other treatment options.

      Causes

      Heel fissures can affect anyone, but risk factors include: Living in a dry climate, obesity, consistently walking barefoot or wearing sandals or open-backed shoes, and inactive sweat glands. Like many foot conditions, heel fissures can become more dangerous if they go untreated and become deep or infected.

      Treatment

      Moisturizing the feet regularly can prevent heel fissures. Once they occur, you can use a pumice stone daily to gently decrease the thick and flaky layer of skin. Going barefoot or wearing open backed sandals are among the worst things you can do when you have heel fissures. Both allow the fat pad of the heel to deform, thereby opening up your fissures. Shoes with strong shock absorption can help to improve the condition.

      Wear shoes with stable heel counters, along with inserts to reduce the pressures on your heels.

      • Use a pumice stone to sand away dead skin and calluses. Never cut callous tissue.
      • Apply skin creams each evening before bed.
      • If you are having trouble softening the callous tissue, try a petroleum-based skin softener.
      • Wear socks to bed to help the lotion or ointment penetrate.

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