Many people experience dry, cracking skin on their feet, but painful or inflamed cracks may rightfully cause concern. Deep cracks on the heel, called heel fissures, can lead to further complications. Cracks or fissures between the toes could be a sign of athlete's foot, a common foot infection. If you're concerned, contact your doctor, especially if you have bleeding or pussy fissures.
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Understanding the Cause
Heel fissures occur when pressure cracks apart the hard skin of the heel. The likelihood of fissures increases if the skin is dehydrated, making it even more inflexible. A bacteria or fungus does not directly cause the condition, but if left untreated, an infection could develop.
Skin fissures due to athlete's foot typically result from fungal infection; though, bacterial infections and chronic skin conditions may also factor in. Athlete's foot spreads through contact with infected skin scales or fungi found in damp areas, such as swimming pools or locker rooms, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
To prevent fissures and athlete's foot, avoid walking around barefoot. Walking barefoot causes friction, hardening the skin of the heel. Walking barefoot in damp areas also puts you at risk for catching fungi responsible for athlete's foot. Wearing sandals around pools and shared showers reduces this risk. The Harvard Medical School Family Health Guide also notes that you should regularly wash your feet with soap and water, but should otherwise keep them dry. If you suffer from unusually sweaty feet, foot powders may help dry them out. People with excessively dry feet should apply specially formulated foot moisturizers to prevent heel fissures.
Once heel fissures develop, use deep skin moisturizers to hydrate and heal the damaged skin. If you have excessive dry skin around the heels, remove any dead skin with a foot file or pumice soap.
Manage the early stages of athlete's foot with home treatment. Regular foot washing and thorough drying prevents the infection from worsening. Focus on keeping your feet as dry as possible, especially around the toe area, where athlete's foot generally settles. Over-the-counter anti-fungal creams also help reduce the amount of fungi.
Professional Medical Treatment
If heel fissures break into open wounds, seek professional medical treatment to reduce the risk of infection. Professional treatment may include the removal of the callus, an intense moisturizing regiment or a prescription medication to fight off any possible infection.
If you've suffered from athlete's foot for more than two weeks or if the infection results in blistering fissures, consult a doctor. A doctor may either prescribe an oral anti-fungal or a topical medication such as clotrimazole and miconazole. The doctor will provide professional advice for easing painful symptoms and may also prescribe an oral antibiotic if a bacterial infection presents itself.