"Dry feet" is a very broad term used to describe a wide range and types of dryness. We need to look more closely at what causes dry feet before we can find a treatment for dry feet. After all, if we don't know what the cause of something is, how are we to find an effective treatment?
In order to find the cause, we must first look at our bodies as a whole. Do we have any systemic problems, such as Diabetes or Neuropathy? Or are our feet dry due to climatic conditions, or even just wear and tear of the body? Once we have answered these questions we will be able to focus on an appropriate treatment. We also need to look at the anatomy of the plantar skin, or the skin on the bottom of the foot. Most of the time, dryness in our feet occurs on the plantar aspect of the foot and usually not on the top of the foot.
The plantar skin is similar to the skin on the palms of our hands. There is an increased number of sweat glands on the plantar surface of the foot. This provides for and maintains good hydration to the plantar feet. The skin is very thick and hairless, providing us with an increased amount of protection. The skin has 5 cellular layers, and is resistant to puncture. It can actually reshape around an object when it comes into contact with it. Many people around the world today still walk barefoot with no problems.
THE PICTURE BELOW IS WHAT THE PLANTAR SKIN LOOKS LIKE UNDER A MICROSCOPE.
If the dryness is due to a systemic cause, such as Diabetes or Neuropathy, then the very first step is to go to a health care professional for advice. The doctor, podiatrist, or any foot care specialist will be able to dispense the appropriate prescription medication that can be used on dry, cracked skin. Often times if there is a systemic cause, dry skin or xerosis is very hard to treat by over the counter remedies. A stronger prescription medication is necessary for treatment and cure of xerotic or dry feet. People with Diabetes get dry skin in part due to neuropathy. Often times, neuropathy is a manifestation of diabetes.
THE PICTURE ABOVE IS OF SEVERE DRY SKIN AND FISSURES ON THE PLANTAR SURFACE OF THE FEET.
Neuropathy is a loss of protective sensation on the skin, or a loss of sympathetic tone. Normal skin sensation or sympathetic tone is when sweat glands,and sebaceous glands in the plantar skin (skin on the bottom of the foot) create and maintatin normal skin hydration and pH. With Neuropathy, this normal skin hydration and pH changes, resulting in dry xerotic skin. Skin which has become dry is less able to adapt to a variation in pressures that the plantar foot experiences on a daily basis. This leads to a breakdown of the skin, and the formation of cracks or fissures on the plantar surface of the skin. When xerosis leads to dry, cracked and even bleeding skin, it is necessary to see a foot care specialist right away for a stronger medication.
THE ANATOMY OF THE SKIN IN DETAIL
If the dry skin is not due to any systemic causes, it is most likely due to the skin undergoing loss of hydration due to wear and tear on our bodies or due to climatic changes. In this case, it is also recommended to see a health care professional, especially if the dryness has become severe and has lead to bleeding, and pain. However, if the dryness is not so severe, several over the counter emollients are available to hydrate the skin. These lotions should be used consistently for 2 weeks. If the dryness still persists, it is important to go to a health care professional for further advice and treatment.