The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine

The Dangers of Sunburned Feet

Posted by on Friday, June 26th, 2015


Seventy-five percent of New York State Podiatric Medical Association members say they’ve diagnosed melanoma or skin cancer during a routine foot examination. While it’s great that podiatrists are alerting patients that they have a serious health problem, the prognosis is not usually good. Once cancer reaches the feet, the condition has already progressed to an unhealthy level. When cancer remains undetected for years, the five-year survival rate drops down to about 50%, so it’s best to take proper prevention steps sooner rather than later, say the podiatrists at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine in Manhattan.

sunburned feet
Sunburned feet don’t get much worse than this! Image Source:

Dangers of Sunburned Feet

Skin cancer is the most obvious risk of sunburned feet. Look out for signs and symptoms of a skin cancer lesion on your feet, including:

– Asymmetrical shape

– Bleeding

– Change in color

– Diameter that increases in size

– Evolving shape, border, color or itching

– Fingernail or toenail bruise that does not grow out with the nail

NY podiatrists often treat sunburn victims for blisters, pain and infection. Patients who already have eczema or psoriasis on their feet suffer a worsening of their condition. The pain is often so severe, the patient cannot wear socks or shoes and has trouble with mobility for several days up to a week. Individuals with diabetes or peripheral artery disease are especially at risk for blisters progressing into non-healing ulcers. When a foot wound does not heal promptly, it’s open to infection and cell death that sometimes causes the need for amputation. If you’ve suffered a sunburn recently, do not take symptoms like nausea, fever, chills and vomiting lightly. These are signs of infection. See a medical professional at once!

Treating Sunburned Feet

Here at The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine, we have a number of special salves we can put on your feet to offer pain relief and expedite healing. We’ll can also give you ice packs and a prescription-strength aloe cream you can use at home to facilitate your care. In some cases, severe burns may need wrapping to prevent infection or a script for antibiotics is written out to manage an existing infection.

In addition to aloe vera, other home remedies for sunburn include:

– Vitamin E: Break open capsules and rub the powder onto the burns with a little bit of olive oil for damaged skin repair.

– Black tea: Each night, fill a basin with warm water and tea bags to soak for a few minutes to heal the burn faster.

– Milk: Soak a cloth in lukewarm milk and gently apply it to the sunburned area for soothing relief.

– Vinegar: Spray one part vinegar and one part water onto the sunburn to kill germs.

Keep in mind, it is common for the feet to swell immensely in response to a bad burn. You will need to ice the feet regularly and elevate them above the heart to take the swelling down.

Preventing Foot Sunburn

To prevent future sunburn, always put sunscreen SPF 30 or higher that protects against UVA and UVB rays onto bare feet. Remember to reapply every couple hours and after wetting your feet in the water. If you really hate sunscreen, try to stay in the shade or cover your exposed skin with socks and shoes or a sun umbrella at the very least. When going swimming, wear protective water shoes (sometimes called “aqua socks”) to protect the tops and bottoms of your feet. Two types of melanomas that are often found on the feet — acral lentiginous and mucosal melanoma — are actually not caused by UV exposure, but appear to have genetic links instead. While you can’t prevent these types of skin cancer, you can increase your chances of a full recovery by catching the problem early with regular visits to the podiatrist.

The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports Medicine offices in Manhattan and Westchester, NY are fully equipped to help you with diagnosis, treatment and prevention strategies pertaining to sunburn. With a friendly staff and board certification, you can be sure you’re getting the best possible care from our podiatrists. Book your appointment here.


If you have any foot problems or pain, contact The Center for Podiatric Care and Sports MedicineDr. Josef J. GeldwertDr. Katherine Lai, Dr. Ryan Minara and Dr. Mariola Rivera have helped thousands of people get back on their feet. Unfortunately, we cannot give diagnoses or treatment advice online. Please make an appointment to see us if you live in the NY metropolitan area or seek out a podiatrist in your area.