With winter around the corner, many patients often present to podiatry clinics range of conditions that are commonly seen during the colder months. In the following series of blogs, we will highlight a number of commonly seen problems that can arise during this time. This week’s blog will focus on dry skin.
A factor that most people do not consider, is that the human skin is an organ capable of miraculous feats. Not only does it provide a barrier that protects internal organs from infection and damage, but it also plays a big role in the regulation of internal systems. It is on this note, that the skin can be used as a methods of screening for potential problems both internally and externally in the body. Because of the skin’s ability to react and respond to external influences, it is no surprise that the texture of skin can change with changing environments. Dry skin often occurs during winter because of the low environmental humidity. This lack of humidity results in physiological changes in the skin cells that results in water being lost. The body is unable to naturally replenish this lost fluid and this can lead to potential problems that will be highlighted below.
For the vast majority of people dry skin does not cause any major concerns however, a number of complications can arise that may lead to discomfort. Some of these factors include the following:
• Development of callus or hard skin under or around weight bearing areas.
• Fissures or cracks in skin painful or potentially become infected.
• Pruritic / itchy skin.
• Flaking and fragile skin.
• Infections; bacterial, fungal, or viral.
In order to avoid complications or problems caused by dry skin, I often highlight a number of factors that need to be considered patients when taking care of their skin at home. Many of these can be done within the comforts of ones own home and can make a very big difference to the overall health of the skin.
Some tips to keep your skin hydrated during the cold winter months include the following:
- Drink plenty of water; by keeping your fluids up, the cells of the body are able to access to water molecules that skin cells often crave. Drinking close to 3 litres of water a day ensures that the skin retains its ability to reduce the effects of pressure from Everyday activities and can assist in reducing the amount of callus that forms all areas of pressure.
- Regular moisturizing of feet; using cream such as Sorbolene, Vaseline or other moisturising creams can also help reduce the damage to the skin by introducing topical moisture in the area. Keeping the feet moisturised in the evenings can also assist in heat retention which means that your feet can be warmer at night. Avoid putting your socks on after applying the cream, to avoid the sock absorbing the cream.
- Wear good quality enclosed shoes during the colder months to reduce exposure to the elements and keep your feet warm. Warmer feet tend to promote the natural processes of the body that regular temperature, and as such may result in moisture being secreted in the form of sweat, making the skin less dry.
- Avoid long, hot showers and harsh soaps. Whilst it might seem like a great idea, the net effect will have a counter-intuitive result, often causing the skin to become shrivelled and dry.
- See a podiatrist for specialist advice on treatment and care of dry skin.
Dr Anel Kapur (Podiatrist)