Wrinkled feet can have many causes. Most causes are harmless and the wrinkling may even be temporary in some cases. However, there are a few conditions where wrinkled feet may be a symptom of some other condition.
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at what may be causing your wrinkled feet, the treatment options, and when to call a doctor about this symptom.
Most causes of wrinkled feet aren’t serious. In fact, many causes are just a normal part of life. But, in some instances, wrinkled skin on your feet may be a symptom of a condition that needs medical attention.
Let’s explore some of the most common causes of wrinkled feet.
Being in water for a long time
Being in water — whether it’s a bath tub, shower, hot tub, or pool — for an extended amount of time is a common cause of wrinkled feet and fingers.
This form of wrinkled feet and fingers is a temporary condition that typically goes away once you’re out of the water and your skin has dried.
Wrinkling happens when your blood vessels right below your skin begin to shrink. This is a normal nervous system response to being in water for a long time.
Once your blood vessels shrink, your skin starts to collapse over the now-smaller blood vessels. This causes wrinkles.
Scientists aren’t quite sure why this happens. A leading theory is that it’s an evolutionary adaptation to help you grip better when your hands and feet are wet.
Trench foot, which is also called immersion foot, happens when your feet are wet and cold for a long period of time. It can cause wrinkles on your feet, as well as:
- blotchy skin or redness or discoloration
- skin flaking off
- pain when your skin is warmed up
Trench foot was first noticed among soldiers in World War I who fought in cold, wet trenches. Without warm socks or waterproof boots to keep their feet dry, the World War I soldiers developed trench foot from the damp, cold conditions their feet were exposed to.
Trench foot among the World War I soldiers created greater awareness about the importance of keeping your feet dry.
Trench foot is treatable, but it’s best to take steps to prevent it. When your feet, socks, or shoes get wet, try to dry them as soon as possible.
If your feet are cold and wet, try applying a heat pack for a few minutes to warm them up.
Hyperhidrosis can be primary or secondary. Primary hyperhidrosis usually has no known cause and is not a sign of an underlying condition. Secondary hyperhidrosis is caused by something else, such as:
Either type of hyperhidrosis can cause sweating all over your body (generalized) or in one place (localized). Your feet are one of the most common places for excessive sweating in both types of hyperhidrosis.
When you sweat a lot, the dampness can cause your skin to become wrinkled. This is especially the case if you wear shoes that don’t allow your feet to breathe.
Dry weather conditions, exposure to hot water or certain chemicals can cause your skin to become dry, including your skin on your feet. Dry, flaky, skin may also be caused by dehydration or underlying medical conditions.
The lack of moisture can cause your skin to wrinkle. It can also cause cracked skin that may look like wrinkles.
For dry skin that isn’t caused by an underlying condition, intensive over-the-counter (OTC) moisturizers are often the first-line treatment.
UV rays from the sun can cause damage to any part of your skin. This can lead to:
- sun damage
- premature aging
If you do expose your feet to the sun, make sure to apply sunscreen to protect your feet from the sun’s damaging rays.
Sun exposure symptoms can be treated, but can rarely be completely reversed.
Treatment for wrinkled feet depends on the underlying cause. While most causes can be treated — and some can be cured — not all can be fully treated.
One cause of wrinkled feet that doesn’t need any special treatment is being in the water for too long. In this case, the wrinkles typically go away once you’ve been out of the water for a while.
Treatment for trench foot
- Warm up your feet with heating packs or by soaking your feet in warm water for 5 minutes.
- Thoroughly dry your feet when they get wet.
- Change your socks and shoes as soon as they get wet.
- Change your socks at least once daily, and don’t sleep in your socks.
- Call your doctor if these self-care measures don’t improve your symptoms.
Treatment for excessive sweating
- Wear breathable footwear and socks to help prevent moisture from building up on your feet.
- Apply an aluminum chloride solution to your feet. This is similar to a strong antiperspirant. You apply the solution several times a day at first, then just once or twice a week.
- Wipe your feet with glycopyrronium towelettes.
- Ask your doctor about iontophoresis. With this treatment, a weak electrical current is applied to your feet and other sweaty areas. This is done daily for the first week, then once or twice a month.
- Talk with your doctor about Botox treatment in your sweat glands. This may interrupt your nerves that activate your sweat glands.
- Talk with your doctor about anticholinergic medication. However, it can have side effects like dry mouth, blurry vision, and problems urinating.
Treatment for dry skin
- Use an intensive moisturizer. Look for an over-the-counter moisturizer specially formulated for dry skin. In addition to hydrating your skin, it may temporarily reduce the appearance of wrinkles.
- Stay hydrated throughout the day.
- If your skin doesn’t improve with over-the-counter and at-home treatment, follow up with your doctor.
Treatment for sun exposure
- Moisturizing can temporarily improve the appearance of your skin after sun exposure.
- Treatments such as laser treatments and chemical peels can help reduce the appearance of wrinkles, but these are usually used on your face.
- Prevention is best. Stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. If you do go out in the sun, cover your feet as much as you can and wear sunscreen on any uncovered parts.
If you have wrinkled feet without any other symptoms, you likely don’t need medical attention.
However, if you have wrinkled feet and any of the following symptoms, consider following up with your doctor:
- blisters on your foot that don’t clear up
- a foot wound that doesn’t heal
- skin that falls off your foot
- ongoing pain
- pus-filled abscesses
- skin discoloration
- dry, cracked skin that bleeds
- itchiness that doesn’t go away with over-the-counter treatments
- excessive sweating without a cause
- any new moles or dark spots, especially if they’re asymmetrical, are different colors throughout, and grow over time
In most cases, wrinkled feet aren’t a cause for concern. But in some cases, they could be a symptom of an underlying condition.
Be sure to make an appointment with your doctor if you have other symptoms along with your wrinkled feet like:
- foot wounds