Heel fissures are a painful foot condition characterized by cracked skin on the heels. For many people, heel fissures are just a nuisance, but for diabetics, they can be a serious health issue. Here are five things diabetics need to know about heel fissures.
Why are heel fissures a concern?
Diabetes can damage the nerves in your feet, which makes it harder for you to feel pain. This means that you can develop deep heel fissures without feeling any warning pain, and when you don't feel pain, you may not notice that you have this condition. Untreated, these fissures may then become infected or ulcerated.
The blood vessels in your feet can also be damaged by diabetes. Adequate blood flow is necessary for both healing and immune response, so without enough blood, your fissures will heal more slowly and may be more likely to get infected.
The combination of nerve damage and blood vessel damage makes heel fissures very dangerous. The complications of this seemingly-minor condition may include ulcers, infections, and even foot or leg amputations.
What are the signs of heel fissures?
If you have heel fissures, you will notice that the skin on your heel is dry and callused. Cracks will form in the area, and if they aren't treated, the cracks will get deeper; deep cracks may bleed.
For non-diabetics, these cracks can be painful, but due to the effects of diabetes, but because you may not feel any pain, you will need to visually inspect your feet every day for signs of fissures. If you notice fissures, make sure to seek treatment right away, even if your feet don't hurt.
What causes heel fissures?
There are many possible causes of heel fissures. Some of these causes are preventable, while others are not. Here are some things that may contribute to the development of this condition:
- Standing for long periods of time, especially on hard floors;
- Wearing shoes that don't let your feet breathe;
- Wearing shoes that rub against your heels;
- Wearing shoes that don't support your heels, like sandals or slippers;
- Being overweight;
- Exposure to low humidity levels, which dries out your skin;
- Excessive sun exposure, which leads to dry skin.
How are heel fissures treated?
Your doctor can offer many treatments for heel fissures. The dry, keratinized edges of the fissures may need to be surgically removed to allow the fissures to heal; this procedure is known as debridement. Once the edges have been cleared of this dry skin, your doctor will use surgical tape to hold your fissured skin in place while it heals.
After your fissures have healed, you'll need to take steps to prevent the condition from recurring. You will need to apply moisturizer to your feet every day to keep the skin from getting dry and cracking.
Wearing the right footwear can also help prevent future heel fissures. Your doctor may tell you to avoid sandals, slippers, and other non-supportive footwear. Diabetics should choose shoes with leather uppers, closed heels, and stiff soles. If you're not sure if your shoes are appropriate, ask your doctor for help.
How common is this problem?
Heel fissures are a very common problem among diabetics. According to Podiatry Today, 82.1% of diabetic patients have dry, cracked, or fissured skin on their heels. Since it's so common, all diabetics need to take steps to prevent heel fissures and check their feet every day for signs of the condition.
If your heels are dry and cracked, you may have heel fissures. This condition may look harmless, but for diabetics, it can be very dangerous, so see your doctor right away. For more information, consider sites like http://www.thefamilyhealthcntr.com.