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What Causes Fissures?

Most fissures on your foot occur as a result of allowing the feet to consistently be too dry or too moist, for different reasons. A dried-out foot as a result of a dry environment and lack of moisturizing will lead to the skin losing flexibility and cracking in areas where it once stretched and twisted healthily. 

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Other Causes of Fissures

  • Biomechanics: Increased friction due to poor mechanics will lead to excessive callus formation. Patients need custom corrective orthotics to improve the mechanical stability of the foot, reduce friction, and reduce callus formation and the risk of infection. 
  • Severe calluses and corns: Fissures can also arise as a result of severe calluses and corns which lead the skin to split.
  • Various skin problems: Different root causes generally give way to different fissure areas: cracked heels are more strongly associated with simple dry skin, for example, while cracks forming between your toes usually point to a fungal infection as the root cause.

Fissure Symptoms

It’s easy to identify fissures visually on the feet, but figuring out their origin requires more attention to detail. 

  • Shared symptoms for dry feet and infections include flaking and peeling, redness, itching, and scaling. 
  • Symptoms more associated with dry feet include skin tightness, rough skin, lines and cracks, and gray or ashy skin.
  • Symptoms of calluses include thick, hardened patches of skin or a waxy or rough texture

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Allowing your feet to become too moist on a regular basis will lead to bacterial and fungal infections. It can sometimes be difficult to tell which problem you’re experiencing, as these infections and other secondary causes of cracks usually begin to look roughly the same as simple dry skin; ashy, flaky skin. Symptoms of a bacterial or fungal infection include:

  • Blisters
  • Weakening skin
  • Burning
  • Warmth
  • Smell
  • Swelling
  • Discoloration
  • Fever
  • Drainage

Risk Factors for Fissures

The risk factors for fissures on your feet are best described in terms of the risk factors for dry skin, fungal infections, bacterial infections, and calluses for your feet. These risks include:

Physical Activity

Increased physical activity due to sports, occupation, or hobbies increase your risk of fissures from all sources due to environmental factors, increased risk of exposure to infections, etc.

Diabetes & Age

Older people are at increased risk of both dry skin and various forms of foot infection.

Diabetics are at increased risk of all infections and need to be alert to foot problems in particular.

Climate

Climates that are dry, cool, and/or low humidity will contribute to an increased risk of dry skin-induced fissures — while warm, humid climates can predispose you to bacterial and fungal infections.

Water

Those who regularly get their feet wet and dry again will be at increased risk, i.e., working in wet environments without proper gear.

Chlorine

Swimming in chlorinated pools increases the risk of dry skin on your feet — and swimming in general can be a source of fungal infections. Be sure to take hygiene seriously after a swim.

Foot Injuries

Any foot injury which breaks the skin can increase your risk of serious infections, which can lead to fissures.

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Prevention of Fissures

To avoid developing fissures on your feet, you need to prevent infections and dry skin. Here’s how you can best do that:

Wear clean socks. Good, clean socks are vital to preventing dry feet and infections due to excessive moisture.

Wear the right shoes. Wearing shoes that fit you properly and are clean will reduce your risk of infections and injuries, and will even minimize your chance of developing fissures due to calluses.

Practice good hygiene. Good hygiene (but without excessive use of drying-out soaps) is your best hope for preventing fissures on your feet. You want to avoid infections without drying out your skin from excessive cleaning.

Moisturize. Moisturizing your feet is a good idea even if you’re more worried about infections — especially if you’re cleaning frequently.

Limit water exposure. If you’re prone to fissures due to infections or dry skin, limiting the exposure your feet have to water can be beneficial. Wear good waterproof boots if you need to be in wet environments.

Treatment for Fissures

The best solution to your fissures is going to depend on the severity of the openings and the root cause of the issue. In most cases, treating the base cause of the fissure will be enough, with no need to focus on treating the fissures in particular. That means moisturizing your feet, using anti-fungals or antibiotic ointments, or wearing shoes that fit to prevent calluses. lf your fissures are showing raw skin or bleeding, however, you may be at risk for more serious infections and should see a doctor immediately to be safe.

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Foot & Ankle Specialty Group for Fissure Treatment

If you’re seeking treatment for your fissures, our team at Foot & Ankle Specialty Group can help with simple, in-office treatments. In business since 2001, our modern, sophisticated, family-friendly podiatry clinic provides treatment for foot and ankle services of all kinds. 

Founded by Dr. Salma Aziz and with Dr. Petrina Yokay and Dr. Jessica Arneson, Foot & Ankle Specialty Group has everything you need to take care of your feet. We are a nurturing female doctor group that follows up with care.

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