Cracked skin is most often a symptom of dry skin, but it can also occur in response to scratches or other trauma, or infection. When the skin becomes dry, it can grow rough and flaky, with small tears that can lead to deeper cracks called fissures. These fissures can extend into the deeper layers of the skin and cause a wide range of other serious skin and health conditions.
Cracked skin is usually accompanied by other dry skin symptoms, with one symptom often leading to another. For instance, dryness can lead to scaling, scaling can cause itchiness, itching can lead to scratching, scratching can cause inflammation and small tears that can develop into fissures (cracks), and these can lead to further irritation. Treating dry, injured or cracked skin promptly and diligently can help break this cycle.
Dry skin and cracked skin can be caused by diet, excessively dry or cold weather, dermatitis, hormonal imbalance, allergies and other skin and health disorders. Other causes of cracked skin include alcohol exposure as well as other irritants and allergens. In cases of deep fissures, cracked skin can lead to infections. In rare cases, if left untreated, skin infections can become systemic and even life-threatening.
As cracked skin is symptomatic of other conditions, you should see a physician or dermatologist to determine the exact cause. When the cause is dry skin, simply treating the dry skin condition is sufficient to resolve the cracked skin problem. The affected skin should be cleaned thoroughly and a good shielding lotion applied. The shielding lotion helps the skin retain natural moisture while locking out irritants and allergens that could harm the skin.