Whether you are an athlete or not, excessive sweating of the feet–often on the soles (bottom)–can make other foot problems such as plantar warts and athlete's foot worse. Clinically known as plantar hyperhidrosis, overactive sweat glands in the feet can lead to more than just an embarrassing odor problem.
Although the condition is rare, for the 1 percent of the population it affects, it's important to have your primary care physician rule out possible underlying medical causes for the condition. A podiatrist can then confirm diagnosis of hyperhidrosis and offer treatment options based on your symptoms.
While foot odor is common with feet that sweat profusely, itchy feet, a burning sensation, toenail fungus, and foot infections can occur as well. Skin can break down when feet are constantly sweaty, allowing viruses and infection-causing bacteria to enter. Even an ingrown toenail or a small cut or scrape can lead to a bacterial infection. Athlete's foot also causes breaks in the skin through which bacteria can enter.
Staph (streptococcus) are a common cause of skin infections which sometimes lead to cellulitis–a serious skin infection that frequently occurs in the feet and lower legs. Without treatment, the infection can spread to deeper tissue and bone, causing serious complications.
Treatment of plantar hyperhidrosis–which can cause excessive sweating from the ankles down to the toes–varies depending on your symptoms but may include home care along with treatment by a podiatrist.
Self-care steps you can take to help control the problem include:
Using antibacterial soap to wash your feet, particularly in between the toes where excessive sweating may be worse
Applying an antifungal foot powder or spray to your feet
Wearing socks made of acrylic or natural blend fibers that wick moisture away from the feet–avoid nylon or 100 percent cotton socks that lock in moisture and keep your feet wet
Choosing athletic shoes constructed from breathable materials with mesh uppers
When home care isn't enough, your podiatrist may recommend:
Over-the-counter or prescription-strength antiperspirants
Oral prescription medications, such as anticholinergics
Botulinum toxin injections to stop the signals that your nerves send to your sweat glands
Iontophoresis–a process that uses a special device to pass a mild electrical current through water to your feet
In severe cases when less-invasive treatment options fail to manage excessive sweating, surgery may be required to remove sweat glands. Lumbar sympathectomy is another surgical procedure that involves cutting nerves in the sympathetic nervous system that control sweating.
To learn more, contact a foot and ankle specialist.