A sweaty foot is caused by a medical condition called Hyperhidrosis. In hyperhidrosis a person sweats excessively and unpredictably with the feet a common part of the body that is affected. People with hyperhidrosis may sweat even when the temperature is cool or when they are at rest.
Sweating helps the body stay cool. In most cases, it is perfectly natural. People sweat more in warm temperatures, when they exercise, or in response to situations that make them nervous, angry, embarrassed, or afraid.
However, excessive sweating occurs without such triggers. Those with hyperhidrosis appear to have overactive sweat glands. The uncontrollable sweating can lead to significant discomfort and when the feet are affected this can lead to increased risks of developing bacterial (e.g. pitted keratolysis) and fungal infections (e.g. athlete’s foot).
When excessive sweating affects the hands, feet, and armpits, it’s called primary or focal hyperhidrosis. Primary hyperhidrosis affects 2 – 3% of the population, yet less than half of patients with this condition seek medical advice. In the majority of primary hyperhidrosis cases, no cause can be found although familial traits are not uncommon.
If the sweating occurs as a result of another medical condition, it is called secondary hyperhidrosis. The sweating may be all over the body, or it may only be in one area. Conditions that may lead to secondary hyperhidrosis include:
- Anxiety conditions
- Carcinoid syndrome
- Certain medications and substances of abuse
- Glucose control disorders
- Heart disease
- Hyperthyroidism (Fast thyroid)
- Lung disease
- Parkinson’s disease
- Spinal cord injury
- Tuberculosis or other infections
Treatment and Prevention
There are many treatment options available for hyperhidrosis. The first line of treatment is generally the use of antiperspirants which plug the sweat ducts. The 1st line antiperspirant treatment which is proven to be effective in hyperhidrosis is aluminium chloride hexahydrate at concentrations of 10% to 20% or in certain cases even higher. It is important to note that antiperspirants can cause skin irritation, and large doses of aluminum chloride can damage clothing. Note: Deodorants do not prevent sweating, but are helpful in reducing body odour.
Another form of treatment available is Iontophoresis. This procedure uses electricity to temporarily turn off the sweat gland. It is proven to be very effective in the treatment of feet and hands. The hands or feet are placed into water, and then a gentle current of electricity is passed through it. The electricity is gradually increased until the patient feels a light tingling sensation. The therapy lasts about 10-20 minutes and requires several sessions. Side effects include skin cracking and blisters, although rare.
Other forms of treatment although not commonly given for this condition include botox and oral medications. It is important that one consults his podiatrist and doctor in order to evaluate the treatment option most suited since this condition can be managed with good results with the right treatment and advice
Prevent foot hyperhidrosis by wearing breathable footwear, use only cotton socks, avoid nylon materials which may be common in socks, apply foot antiperspirants regularly and if you suffer from recurring fungal infections, apply anti-mycotic powders on a regular basis.