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Sweaty feet (Hyperhidrosis pedis)
Sweaty feet are often extremely uncomfortable for those affected. In view of the increased odor and the reactions of the environment, many sweaty foot patients feel socially isolated. In addition, sweaty feet increase the risk of fungal infections and other skin diseases in the area of the feet. Various measures can be taken to deal with the problem. In addition to conventional medical approaches, there are a number of naturopathic procedures through which sweat production is minimized and the annoying smell can be combated.
The medical term Hyperhidrosis pedis describes excessive sweating in the area of the feet. The eccrine sweat glands of the soles of the feet release more than 50 milligrams of sweat per minute per foot. Colloquially, however, the term sweaty foot refers more to the smell than to the amount of liquid actually secreted. Unpleasant smelling feet are generally considered sweaty feet.
Sweaty feet secrete an excess of sweat through the sweat glands in the area of the sole of the foot. As a result, the cornea under the feet is constantly moistened and can swell white under certain circumstances.
Under the moist, warm conditions of the soaked horny layer, bacteria can easily multiply and the keratin decomposes in the cornea. The remaining degradation substances (short-chain fatty acids and amines) produce an extremely unpleasant sour-rancid smell.
This is also perceived by the environment of those affected and is not seldom considered with appropriate comments. Many sweaty foot patients therefore try to evade situations in which their fellow human beings would perceive the smell and increasingly feel socially isolated, which in the worst case can also lead to psychological problems.
The attacked skin under the soles of the feet becomes more susceptible to other diseases, so that those affected, for example, increasingly suffer from viral-related foot warts (verrucae plantares) and athlete's foot infections. The latter in turn favor the occurrence of secondary infections and inflammation. The fungal infection may also cause life-threatening blood poisoning.
Sweaty-foot patients generally tend to skin diseases and eczema in the area of the feet, whereby the germ-friendly, moist and warm environment is primarily responsible for this.
Causes of sweaty feet
The clinical picture is usually caused directly by a regulatory disorder of the vegetative nervous system (vegetative dystonia) in connection with oversized sweat glands. Originally, sweating on the feet is not used to regulate body temperature like sweating in general, but to provide the feet with grip.
The sweating of the feet and hands is controlled by a separate center in the central nervous system. The signals are forwarded via the sympathetic nervous system (part of the vegetative nervous system). If the sweat center in the central nervous system reacts disproportionately to external stimuli, those affected begin to sweat more.
People who generally sweat profusely - i.e. suffer from so-called hyperhidrosis - are more prone to sweaty feet. However, excessive sweating can only manifest on the hands (hyperhidrosis palmaris) or under the armpits (hyperhidrosis axillaris). The sweat secretion on the feet of shoes and stockings made of air-impermeable materials increases significantly. Synthetic fibers are therefore by no means recommended for sweaty-foot patients.
The increased sweating on the feet is also attributed to detoxification processes. The intake of toxins such as nicotine, tobacco and medication should therefore be assessed as a risk factor for sweaty feet. However, the relationships here have not yet been clearly scientifically proven.
The sweaty foot odor itself can still be due to poor foot hygiene or infrequent washing of the socks or shoes. However, this applies in general and not only to patients who suffer from sweaty feet from a medical point of view.
A measurement of the sweating can be used to check whether there is a pathological hyperfunction of the sweat glands in the sole of the foot or only subjectively perceived sweaty feet. For this purpose, for example, an iodine tincture is applied and, after drying, dusted with a powder of potato starch. Leaking sweat can be recognized by a blue discolouration of the powder. Furthermore, a so-called quantitative sudometry can be used to measure the amount of sweat, especially if general hyperhidrosis is suspected.
Treatment for sweaty feet
Successful therapy against sweaty feet should be based on particularly thorough foot hygiene. Even if the causes of the excessive sweating cannot be remedied in this way, the daily effects of foot care can at least minimize the consequences, such as the formation of odors or the susceptibility to infection.
One approach to therapy is tap water iontophoresis (treatment with DC water baths). The feet are placed in two water trays with electrical conductors, which completes a circuit. The effect is ideally reduced sweating. However, the treatment of individual patients has had extremely different success.
A superficial treatment of the sweaty feet with aluminum chloride can provide relief. The welding channels are closed by the aluminum salts, which form a connection with the keratin. Depending on the type of sweating, preparations with different aluminum chloride concentrations are used. The aim here is for the sweat glands to degenerate to such an extent that sweat secretion is reduced to a normal level.
Chemical denervation (disruption of the nerve pathways) is another option for treating sweaty feet. This can be done, for example, using botulinum toxin (botox). However, the success of treatment is extremely different individually with this procedure. In addition, botox is not officially approved for the treatment of sweaty feet due to a lack of scientific studies on the benefits and risks.
If the patient suffers from particularly severe (health) impairments in everyday life due to their sweaty feet and all attempts at treatment are unsuccessful, the last option is a surgical intervention in which the supplying nerves are severed. However, the risk of undesirable side effects is relatively high here, so that this option is only used very rarely.
Tips to combat sweaty foot odor
Foot baths from cold salt water, thorough cleaning, drying and subsequent application of cream counteract the possible damage to the skin and an increased odor. Excess cornea should be removed mechanically regularly with a corneal planer or similar instruments to prevent the spread of germs.
Sweaty foot patients can use antibacterial, odor-inhibiting inserts, for example based on cedar wood, cinnamon or activated carbon, which absorb sweat and thus avoid the warm, moist microclimate in the shoe. Avoiding socks made of synthetic fibers and wearing breathable footwear can also contribute to this.
The socks should be changed and washed frequently. In general, sweaty foot patients are advised to walk barefoot as often as possible and otherwise wear sandals. The unpleasant smell can be prevented by changing the stockings. The footwear should also be changed regularly to minimize odors. In addition, foot powder can counteract moisture on the feet and the development of odors on sweaty feet.
Proper nutrition for sweaty feet
Since a connection between the appearance of sweaty feet and eating habits is suspected, accompanying nutritional therapy may be appropriate. In general, foods that stimulate sweat production should be avoided as far as possible. These include hot spices with the ingredients allyl isothiocyanate (e.g. in mustard, wasabi) and capsaicin (in peppers, chilli peppers) and the pleasure poisons coffee, tobacco and alcohol.
Acidic foods such as e.g. Sauerkraut or pickles sweating. Meat, sausage and salt should only be consumed in small quantities and instead fresh fruit, vegetables, whole grains and nuts should be used instead. Always make sure to drink enough, preferably water and diluted fruit juices.
Naturopathy for sweaty feet
Naturopathy offers numerous approaches to treating sweaty feet. Different homeopathic remedies can help against excessive sweating as well as Schüssler salts or Bach flower therapy.
The composition of the extracts, tinctures and preparations should always be individually adjusted and left to experienced therapists. Calcium carbonicum and silica (silica) are used more frequently in homeopathy.
A foot bath with fenugreek seeds can help with sweaty feet and a strong smell. Because the seeds contain active ingredients that have a calming effect on the sweat glands and thus reduce sweat production.Foot bath against sweaty feet
- 12 heaping tablespoons of fenugreek seeds (from the drugstore or pharmacy) are placed in a pot with a liter of cold water
- Let the seeds soak for six hours
- Bring the infusion to a boil briefly, then let it cool
- Pour the brew into a wash bowl or tub and bathe your feet in it for 15 minutes
- Repeat daily if necessary
If you sweat a lot on your feet, you can use a self-mixed foot powder to reduce sweating and prevent odors.Anti-sweat foot powder:
- 40 g of clay
- 50 g powdered thyme leaves
- 20 g violet root, powdered
- 15 g oak bark, powdered
Mix the four ingredients (all available from the pharmacy) thoroughly. Place the mixture in a sealable container. Powder your feet well before putting on your stockings and before going to sleep.
Also suitable for self-treatment for hyperhidrosis and sweaty feet are teas or tinctures made of sage, which naturally reduce sweat production.
Author and source information
This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.
Dipl. Geogr. Fabian Peters, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch
- Peter Germann "sweaty feet", in: German alternative practitioner magazine, Volume 12 Issue 3, 2017, Thieme Connect
- Tracey C.Vlahovic: "Plantar Hyperhidrosis: An Overview", in: Clinics in Podiatric Medicine and Surgery, Volume 3, Issue 3, 2016, sciencedirect.com
- Sanjay Singh; Simranjit Kaur; Paul Wilson: "Plantar hyperhidrosis: A review of current management", in: Journal of Dermatological Treatment, Volume 27 Issue 6, 2016, Taylor & Francis Online
- Klaus Grünewald: Theory of Medical Foot Treatment - Volume 2, Verlag Neuer Merkur GmbH, 2007
- "Hyperhidrosis - Causes and Therapy of Excessive Sweating", in: Deutsches Ärzteblatt, Volume 106 Issue 3, 2009, aerzteblatt.de
- Working group of the Scientific Medical Societies (AWMF) e.V .: www.awmf.org (accessed: September 6, 2019), definition and therapy of primary hyperhidrosis: guideline 013 - 059