Rhagades: How painful skin cracks develop

Updated: 06/16/2022 – 8:09 pm

Cracks on the feet and hands
Rhagades: How painful skin cracks develop

Photo: Getty Images / Yusuke Ide

Skin tears, fissures, occur mainly on the hands and feet, but also on the elbows or in the corners of the mouth.

Cracks are painful tears of the skin. What causes the cracks, what symptoms can occur, and how they are treated.

Most people are familiar with dry hands and feet. But if the skin is very dry, it can crack. The painful cracks in the skin are called fissures. Here you can find out what causes chapped hands, feet or lips, what symptoms can occur and how they are treated.

Rhagades – skin lacerations which can be painful

Cracks or fissures appear on very dry skin. They are tight, cracked and can occur in the epidermis. These cracks are not only visually disturbing, but can also be very painful, bleed and become inflamed. Cracks in the skin appear mainly on the feet, hands, elbows, heels and corners of the mouth – areas of the skin that can be exposed to the elements and severe friction.

Especially when the skin is very dry and consequently loses elasticity, the gates are wide open. When skin spots are overly stretched, the skin tears. Cracks in the skin are problematic because germs can get through them, which in turn can cause inflammation.

Cheilitis in the corners and cracking of the skin on the lips

Cracks can occur both on the lips themselves and in the corners of the mouth. Dry, chapped lips are aggravated by cold and wetness. Moistening dry lips is also counterproductive. Previously damaged skin in the corners of the mouth tears further when eating, talking and laughing and can cause pain. These cheilitis corners of the mouth are colloquially referred to as “rotten spots”, known medically as angular cheilitis.

What are the causes of fissures?

Above all, the dryness of the skin triggers the fissures. Other factors are:

  • cold and heated air
  • nutrient deficiency
  • signs of skin aging
  • Cleansers that attack the natural skin barrier
  • Skin diseases such as neurodermatitis
  • genetic predisposition
  • Frequent barefoot walks
  • Incorrect foot care (too frequent removal of calluses)
  • UV radiation

How are fissures treated?

Cracks can be prevented with regular use of greasy creams. If they have already appeared, creams and tinctures with dexpanthenol extract, myrrh, chamomile or sage can relieve symptoms. They reduce inflammation, disinfect and minimize pain. Zinc pastes, which absorb moisture and keep the skin dry, are also suitable.

If deep skin cracks already exist, crack-rich ointments are needed. Rhagades are often very stubborn, so it is important to take care of the cracked areas of the skin in a sustainable and long-term way. To optimize the effectiveness of the creams, you can put a cosmetic glove or a cotton sock on your hand or foot.

Medicines are often prescribed for inflamed fissures: cortisone for severe inflammation, antibiotics or antifungals for a proven bacterial or fungal infection.



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