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Sweaty feet are the result of sweat glands that are over productive resulting in excessive perspiration. Excessive perspiration is called hyperhydrosis. Sweaty feet are most common in adolescents and young adults. Why are some people so effected by sweaty feet? Each of us has a set point for our metabolism. This set point is somewhat like the thermostat in our homes. Some folks have a higher set point than others. For some, sweaty feet and hands may be due to anxiety, stress, hyperthyroidism, hypoadrenalism or excessive fluid intake. For others, sweaty feet are just a sign of their natural metabolic set point.
- Excessive perspiration of the feet
- Foot odor due to excessive perspiration
Bromhydrosis is the term used to describe the odor associate with sweaty feet. The distinctive odor of smelly tennis shoes is actually caused by bacteria helping to decompose the perspiration and dead skin cells on the foot and those that are left in the shoe.
Disorders of the sweat glands are commonly grouped into a category of conditions referred to as dyshydrosis. Each of these conditions result in an unusual environment that the skin was not designed to manage. Several unique skin conditions occur as a result of dyshydrosis. One common condition seen in children is called toe box dermatitis. Remember the cute little rubber tipped tennis shoes kids wear when they first start to walk? That rubber toe box can contribute to dyshydrosis. Toe box dermatitis is characterized by peeling of the toes and occasionally, ingrown nails.
We've already mentioned hyperhydrosis, but we should also discuss anhydrosis, or lack of perspiration. A common example of anhydrosis is seen in diabetic patients. With the onset of diabetic peripheral neuropathy, the autonomic nervous system becomes dysfunctional. The autonomic nervous system is the part of the nervous system that controls the activities we take for granted in our bodies such as salivation and bowel motility. A common complication with diabetic patients is the loss of perspiration (anhydrosis).
Causes and contributing factors
There is no known cause for sweaty feet but possible causes may include anxiety, stress, hyperthyroidism, hypoadrenalism or excessive fluid intake. Contributing factors include use of shoes made from synthetic materials.
The differential diagnosis of sweaty feet includes:
Remember, when treating sweaty feet, this condition will not be cured, but rather need to be managed over time. Some of the methods used to treat sweaty feet are really quite simple. Create and environment in the shoe that is cool, dry and accessible to UV light. Try these four simple tricks;
1. Rotate your shoes every other day to allow them to dry thoroughly.
2. Avoid synthetic materials like rubber or vinyl, wear leather or cloth that can absorb moisture.
3. Frequent changes of socks to wick away moisture.
4. Use a drying agent to decrease perspiration.
5. Treat your shoes with an antibacterial/antifungal spray on a weekly basis.
6. Use an antibacterial/antifungal soap on a daily basis.
Severe cases of sweaty feet can also be treated with injections or surgery. Injections of Botox, or attenuated botulism, has been used very successfully by dermatologists to control sweaty feet. Botox is used to paralyze the smooth muscle that regulates the sweat gland. Endoscopic excision of the dorsal root ganglion is a method used by neurosurgeons to create surgical anhydrosis by surgically removing that component of the nervous system responsible for autonomic functions.
When to contact your doctor
Consult your podiatrist or primary care specialist for more information on the treatment of sweaty feet.
References are pending.
Author(s) and date
Competing Interests - None
Peer Reviewed - This article is peer reviewed by an open source editorial board. Your comments and suggestions to improve this paper are appreciated.
Cite this article as: Oster, Jeffrey. Sweaty Feet. http://www.myfootshop.com/article/sweaty-feet
First published online: January 1, 2000. Most recently updated 12/4/13.
Sweaty Feet by Myfootshop.com is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 Unported License.