Daily we see clients who are unaware of how to take proper care of their feet; and dry skin tends to be a major part of the problem. The skin on our feet is naturally dry, unlike the skin on the rest of the body. Since the feet have no oil glands, they rely on hundreds of thousands of sweat glands for moisturisation. Anyone can have dry feet, but the condition is more common among seniors and diabetics.
Dry feet ranges in severity from mild, temporary dry, to severe dry, which cause additional problems.
Dry feet are generally a symptom of another problem; but you may experience additional symptoms such as:
- Cracks in the feet (fissures)
- Rough skin
- Flaky skin
- Peeling skin
- Rashes (usually brought on by itching).
Apart from a lack of moisture in the skin, there are several common factors that can lead to dry feet including:
- A skin condition that dries the skin (eczema, psoriasis, etc.)
- Soaps that are non-moisturising
- Medical conditions such as diabetes or thyroid disease
- Cold weather
- Low humidity levels in home, office, etc.
- Aging (we naturally lose moisture in our skin as we age)
- Long periods spent in the sun.
Diagnosing Dry Feet
It can be diagnosed via a physical exam and by asking about your symptoms. Your skin may also be tested for skin conditions and disorders. Blood and skin tests (biopsies) are used to rule out conditions such as dermatitis, psoriasis, and eczema. Inquires about your medical and family history are important.
People who suffer from mild to moderate dry feet should be aware of the complications that can arise if it is left untreated. Symptoms are generally mild at first, and may not arouse concern. However, these can develop into severe problems, and become difficult to manage over time. For example, dry skin located around your heel can become so severe it causes deep cracks. Dry, cracked feet can be painful. Additional complications may include:
- Skin conditions such as psoriasis or dermatitis
- Difficulty walking
- The need to limit time spent on your feet, which may necessitate a job change
- Daily itchiness and burning
- Expensive treatment if over-the-counter medications are no longer sufficient.
Treatment is usually in relation to the underlying cause. Some people naturally have dry skin and must constantly take extra steps to ensure that their feet are moisturised at all times. The most common solution is a therapeutic oil, ointment, or cream. Further, one can:
- Apply lotion after bathing.
- Use mild moisturising skin soaps.
- Stay hydrated by drinking lots of water.
As well, simply treating an underlying medical condition such as thyroid disease may make a difference. If you are diabetic, you may be more prone to foot problems.
Here are some tips to help you avoid this condition:
- Talk to your physician/podiatrist/chiropodist/foot health practitioner about lotions, creams, and moisturisers to help you manage the dryness.
- Moisturise after each shower or every time your feet come into contact with water.
- Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe. Avoiding excessive sweating.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, which can cause the itchy feeling to worsen.
- Control your diabetes; getting and keeping your blood glucose within normal range can go far toward preventing common diabetic skin complications. If you’re already experiencing skin issues, managing your diabetes can help prevent them from worsening.
To get a handle on your diabetes – strive for a healthy weight; eat right; cut back on salt; maintain a healthy blood pressure; and exercise. That’s a tall order, but talk to your health care team for support.
- Be aware – If you suffer from diabetic nerve damage (neuropathy), you could have an infected cut, scratch, or skin puncture and not know it. Don’t let a small problem turn into a big one so be aware of your body. Check your feet, ankles, in between your toes and legs regularly for wounds that aren’t healing.
- Do something about wounds and sores – Don’t neglect wound care. If you find a nick, a scratch, a small cut, anything that isn’t healing or that worries you, talk to your doctor immediately.
- Cover up – This simple first line of defence can help you avoid the cuts and scratches that can lead to infection. Whether you’re gardening or walking the dog, cover your legs with long pants and your feet with flat, good-fitting shoes.