Most people from time to time have suffered foot perspiration, odour; however, for some people this becomes a persistent problem. In podiatry, this condition is known as ‘hyperhidrosis’ meaning excessively sweating feet.
Sweaty feet can be caused by several factors such as:
• Occupational – standing on their feet all day • Feet under strain due to structural problems within the foot • Pain • Hot weather • Eating spicy hot and spicy foods • Inherited condition • Over-active sweat glands within the feet which can be triggered by hormonal changes e.g. stress/anxiety • Medical disorder such as hyperthyroidism • Wearing occlusive footwear (as worn in industry e.g. warehouses) and/or trainers
As well as experiencing sweaty feet, odour can become an embarrassment. The odour (bromidrosis) is caused by bacteria on the skin breaking down the sweat. Problems associated with sweaty feet are minor skin infections (bacterial or fungal) such as athletes foot may occur. Sweat rashes can occur on the feet as a resultant inflammatory response.
Mechanical strain within the foot can change the integrity of the skin and perhaps cause both moist (inside the digits) and dry fissures (around the heels).
What can be done?
There are a few basic strategies which may alleviate or help reduce the problem:
• Footwear – leather shoes are preferred if possible because they help the feet to ‘breath’. Do not wear the same pair every day, let them dry out before wearing again. • Removable insoles which can be aired/washed. You can obtain insoles which are medicated and have a deodorising affect on the feet. • Wear socks that are made from natural fibres such as cotton, wool or a mixture of cotton and wool – these tend to absorb and draw the moisture away from your feet. • Bathe your feet in an anti-bacterial foot bath perhaps containing tea tree or use anti-bacterial soap such as Hibiscrub and dry thoroughly afterwards. • Use antiperspirant e.g. aluminium chloride • Application of astringents e.g. surgical spirit. • A few crystals of Potassium permanganate (obtained from a chemist) can be added to warm footbaths. This solution will temporarily stain the skin and nails brown; therefore, do not excessively bathe your feet – use perhaps once a week.
Referenced: Doncaster PCT (nodate) ‘Sweaty Feet – Advice for effective care’ Available at: www.doncasterpct.nhs.uk/documents/DP4856SweatyFeet.pdf Lorimer, D., French, G., O’Donnell, M., Burrow, G.B. (2002) Neale’s Disorders of the foot. Diagnosis and Management. 6th Ed. Edingburgh: Churchill Livingstone