Oh look, there’s a lot of changes that happen as we age. But in order to explain that, maybe we should explain the skin itself.
To start with, the soles of our feet and the palms of our hands have an extra layer of skin called the Stratum lucidium. The second fun fact I want to give to you today is the thickness of the dermis or the middle layer of skin varies by its location in the body and on the palms of the hands and more importantly to us, the soles of the feet.
It’s around 3 mm thick,which is two and a half times thicker than the skin on your eyelids, for example.
Which does make sense. And is that just because we’re simply using obviously these parts of our bodies more often over time?
I’m sure it would have been created that way. Absolutely. And the skin has a few jobs.
We’ve got a couple of different layers and the outer layer helps us protect the body and retain moisture and keeping the skin well hydrated.
Then the middle layer is basically responsible for supporting that outer layer and help keeping it nourished and moisturised and it also aids in sensations and feelings and helps regulate the temperature.
And then the innermost layer, which is a subcutaneous tissue, insulates the body against temperature, physical impacts and also stores fat cells and houses some more of those really important nerves which are important for our balance.
So even though it’s usually the outer layer that we can touch getting dry and cracked as we age, the whole skin organ is responsible for that thick skin or the calloused skin or hyperkeratotic skin happening as we call it.
So is that why we tend to get what’s called cracked heels?
Absolutely. Great work, Jess.
That brings me to my next point.
So cracked heels or thickened skin or callous or hyperkeratotic skin as we call it, forms in areas of high pressure like our heels and our big toes and sometimes the ends of all of our little toes as well. And it occurs for quite a few different reasons and it’s very dependent on the person but mainly because of a few different reasons and they are lack of moisture, skin conditions like eczema and psoriasis changes occurring with diabetes or kidney issues or thyroid problems. Another interesting one is often that we see people with gastrointestinal issues that have lack of absorption seem to have really easily forming calluses as well.
Another thing is poor footwear, unfortunate genetics. Some people are more predisposed to this than others. Friction and pressure from repeated actions.
So you’ll often see this in someone who’s been a trades person their whole life, someone who’s a tiler, we often see have really thickened big toenails and lots of callous or hard skin on the ends of their toes. Just from that, kneeling down and putting pressure on the ends of their toes and then obviously comes to the big one is aging.
Over time, the body slows down production of many different and important hormones needed to maintain the sort of the elasticness and the strength of the skin. And for this reason, older people may notice especially dry skin and even skin that’s thicker than they had when they were younger. And even though it’s a bit disconcerting for everybody and for all of the listeners listening today, I want to note that thicker skin or drier skin on your feet and your heels is normal as we age, but it can increase the risk of developing those cracked heels or sore calluses.
And that’s really what we want to.
Avoid on age without aging.
Today you’re hearing from Mary-Ellen Redmayne, a podiatrist and also the director of Footstop Mobile Podiatry service. And we’re learning about cracked heels and what we can do to repair them.
So there are lots of things that we can do to reduce the dryness in our feet at home. And I’m going to start off by saying a well balanced diet and regular exercise is a great start to any management plan.
So managing your diet and exercise, managing your chronic health conditions with your GP, and then foot hygiene, make sure we’re cleaning our feet daily just with normal soap and exfoliate those areas of dry skin and moisturise, moisturise, moisturise.
That is key, is what I’m hearing here, Mary-Ellen Redmayne.
Now, often if you go to the nail spa, you do see the use of razors peeling off some of the dead skin on the heel. Can that also improve the cracked skin or the cracked heel appeal or is it worse in the long term?
Look, a podiatrist uses sterilised equipment and a brand new scalpel blade. Often, if you’ve got really thick heels, we need to use several new scalpel blades on each heel for your feet if you do have dry, cracked skin.
So I would say to you or to any of your listeners that are thinking about going to a foot spa, these foot spas aren’t regulated across Australia, so you don’t have a health practitioner in front of you, which is all fine until something goes wrong.
So we can use a scalpel and we can thin out the skin, we can take out those cracks or fissures and we can get that skin back to an area or like a feeling that’s better for you.
Well, there’s lots of different things that we can do. We can sand it with our medical sander and then give you the best ointment options that’s best for the skin at that time.
Which brings me back to the moisturising.
So the best cream that you need at home, a 30% urea based moisturising cream, is the best thing you can use on your dry skin. The other thing that we can be doing is wearing enclosed shoes, not thongs or slip ons, which is really hard in the hot areas of Australia.
And also when it’s summertime. So if we are going to be wearing thongs or slip ons, make sure we’re getting our moisturising regularly onto our feet to try and prevent those dry or flaking heels getting worse.
Any final thoughts that you want people to take away from this conversation?
I’ve got a practical one here.
If you do have chronic health conditions and you cannot reach your feet very well, wear white socks. That is, white colored socks. And then when you take your socks off, at the end of the day, look inside the sock. Can you see any fluid? Can you see any blood or discoloration? And if you can, then you get yourself to a doctor to check it out.
Get a referral to see a podiatrist. A podiatrist can do all of the things involved with your feet. And don’t be afraid to receive help. Don’t be embarrassed that you can’t reach your feet. We don’t care you’ve had your shoes on all day. We’d prefer that you show up and get checked and treated rather than not turn up at all.
Because as we age, so do our feet.