Rhagades: How painful skin cracks develop

Updated: 16.06.2022 – 20:09

Cracks in the legs and arms
Rhagades: How painful skin cracks develop


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

Photo: Getty Images / Yusuke Ide

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

Ragads are painful skin cracks. What causes cracks, what symptoms may occur and how they are treated.

Most people know dry feet and hands. But if the skin is very dry, it can crack. Painful skin cracks are called ragads. Here you can find out what causes cracked hands, feet or lips, what symptoms may occur and how it is treated.


Rhagades: skin cracks that can be painful


Scratches or cracks appear on very dry skin. They are narrow, cracked and can occur in the epidermis. These cracks are not only visually disturbing, they can also be very painful, bleeding and inflammation. Skin cracks appear mainly on the feet, hands, elbows, heels and corners of the mouth – ie areas of the skin that can be exposed to the weather and strong friction.


Especially when the skin is very dry and loses elasticity as a result, the sluices are wide open. When the skin patches are stretched, the skin tears. Cracks in the skin are problematic because they can penetrate germs, which can then cause inflammation.

Corner cheilitis and skin cracks on the lips


Ragads can occur both on the lips and in the corners of the mouth. Dry and cracked lips worsen cold and humid conditions. Moisturizing dry lips is also counterproductive. Previously damaged skin in the corners of the mouth tears further when eating, speaking and laughing and can cause pain. These cheilitic corners of the mouth are colloquially referred to as “rotten spots”, medically known as angular cheilitis.

What causes rags?


Dry skin triggers mainly ragads. Other factors are:


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


How are ragads treated?


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


If deep skin cracks already exist, rich ointments for cracks are necessary. Ragads are often very stubborn, so it is important to take care of 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.


Drugs – cortisone for severe inflammation, antibiotics or antifungals for proven bacterial or fungal infections are often prescribed for inflamed ragads.


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Sources: onmeda.de, apotheken-umschau.de


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