Diabetes, Skin Conditions | November 20, 2019 | Author: Naturopath
Skin around the heel is thicker and often dryer than other skin of the body. This is because we have fewer oil glands on our feet and they experience daily wear and tear. Dryness and heel pad pressure can cause the skin to crack causing fissures and possible entry points for infective microorganisms.
Everyday contributors to dry heels include a lack of moisture (due to limited oil glands), irritation (friction from ill-fitting shoes and pressure from standing), heat and humid environments (synthetic shoes or boots), harsh soaps (leaving residue or causing dryness), aging (skin loses its ability to retain moisture as we age) and some medications (such as diuretics).
As well as the obvious dry, hard and cracked skin, other symptoms might include flaky skin, itching, pain, redness, inflammation, bleeding and ulceration (infection).
Symptoms of infections such as pain, warmth, redness and swelling can be serious especially in diabetics and could be an indicator of a serious infection (cellulitis or a diabetic foot ulcer) and medical help should be sort.
Standing for long periods of time, wearing non-supportive and non-protective footwear (thongs and opened-back sandals or ill-fitting enclosed shoes; long, hot showers and harsh soaps and climate (cold climate, low humidity) are common contributors to the development of cracked heels.
Medical concerns which may lead to cracked heels include:
Diabetes – high blood sugar, poor circulation and lack of pain sensation due to nerve damage.
Thyroid disorders – both under and over-active can present with foot conditions which may contribute to cracked heels. Auto-immune thyroid conditions may present with both types.
Fungal infection – athlete’s foot (tinea pedis).
Juvenile Plantar Dermatosis – a specific form of irritant contact dermatitis caused from repeated cycles of moisture exposure followed by rapid drying.
Atopic dermatitis – itchy skin can make skin dryer and result in cracks.
Psoriasis – is a condition in which skin cells build up and form scales and itchy, dry patches.
Other conditions which are associated with dry and cracked heels include:
Aging – skin tends to become dryer, thicker and loses its elasticity as we age.
Nutritional deficiencies – Vitamin B3 deficiency (called Pellagra) can result in dry, flaky skin anywhere on the body, including heels. Excess alcohol can cause a B3 deficiency.
When the skin of the heel is thickened such as with callouses, attacking the area too aggressively will often lead to tenderness and can result in infection.
Start with a foot soak to soften skin before any exfoliation begins.
Try for 20 minutes in warm water.
The regular removal of dead skin from the foot keeps skin soft and helps prevent dry skin becoming hardened, calloused and cracked. A variety of different methods are available to try.
Moisturisers help to prevent dehydration of the skin and are available as gels, creams, balms or even an oil. Look for the following ingredients.
Manuka honey – in a medicinal cream is ideal for cracked skin especially if a mild infection is suspected, due to its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory activity.
Lanolin contains fatty acids and works as an occlusive substance which physically blocks water loss.
Vitamin E offers protection and supports healing.
Aloe vera has anti-inflammatory anti-pruritic, wound healing and analgesic properties. Aloe also contains salicylic acid and can aid in hydration.
Plant oils can offer therapeutic benefits to the skin depending on their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties supporting wound healing and repair of the skin barrier.
Infection. Treating mild infection using medicinal manuka honey or tea tree cream can be effective, but serious infections or very hardened skin should be seen by a doctor, or podiatrist, especially if sufferer is diabetic or elderly.
Supplementing with nutrients may help prevention and repair.
Include a variety of fruit and vegetables, legumes, seeds and nuts, fish, chicken and meat to help supply nutritional needs.
Spending a little time looking after your feet can help prevent more severe conditions developing.
Moisturizers: The Slippery Road https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4885180/
Honey and Health: A Review of Recent Clinical Research https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28539734
Anti-Inflammatory and Skin Barrier Repair Effects of Topical Application of Some Plant Oils https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5796020/
The Role of Moisturizers in Addressing Various Kinds of Dermatitis: A Review
Henry, Osiecki; The Nutrient Bible 9th Edition, Bio Concepts, AG Publishing; QLD, Australia