What Causes Peeling Feet?

Athlete's foot causes peeling feet accompanied by itching and burning.
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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 25 March 2014
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Peeling feet can be caused by a number of things, some of them serious. In many cases, peeling feet are primarily the result of exposure to environmental stressors such as dry air and the sun. Dry, cracked, and peeling skin may also be caused by a skin infection, such as athlete's foot, or it may be a symptom of a more serious problem. Individuals with diabetes should be particularly conscious of the condition of their feet, as dry, peeling skin can be a sign of a more serious circulatory problem. Patches of dry skin on the feet that do not go away should also be examined by a doctor, as they may be signs of skin cancer.

For many people, peeling feet is largely a cosmetic problem that may be easily dealt with by regularly exfoliating and moisturizing the feet along wit the regular application of sunscreen. Many individuals experience significant problems with peeling and cracking heels during the summer months, as this is when people go about barefoot or wearing sandals. The exposure of the skin to the air can result in the accumulation of dry, dead skin. In addition, sun exposure can cause sunburn on the feet, which may result in peeling skin. There are numerous over-the-counter treatments for peeling feet available, though diabetics should be cautious about using any treatment until they have received approval from their physician.


If an individual experiences peeling feet along with itchiness and burning, he may have developed athlete's foot, a relatively common fungal infection. In such cases, the individual may experience peeling more between his toes and on the soles of his feet. It is possible to treat athlete's foot with over-the-counter creams and sprays. If the condition is severe, however, the sufferer may need medical attention and may need to use prescription-strength treatments or even oral medications. As athlete's foot is contagious, it can be particularly important for individuals who share living or bathing space with others to have their condition diagnosed and treated.

Many skin conditions present themselves as dry, peeling skin. When in doubt, sufferers should speak to their doctor about their concerns. Although the condition may not be serious, a doctor can run tests to ensure that a patient's peeling feet are not the result of uncontrolled diabetes, squamous cell skin cancer, or other skin infections or irritations that might get worse if not treated.


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