Smelly feet – Causes and Treatments
I have smelly feet. My friends and even my boyfriend told me that they just do not smell good at all. I know that my feet are different from those of others. I don’t think their feet smell as bad as mine each and every day. Is there something wrong with me and what can I do to help them smell their best?
Foot odor is a rather common complaint and we all have it, especially after puberty. The question is how much foot odor is tolerable. We need to feel comfortable taking off our shoes without others wondering what happened. Excessive foot odor, medically called bromhidrosis (sometimes called bromohidrosis), is not rare and affects many more people than we think; although, it is not something that most people share with others freely. The odor, usually an unpleasant one, emanates from the skin. Characteristically, it is described as rancid, pungent, or sour in character.
Dermatologists in Edmonton know your skin. Here are several factors contributing to excessive foot odor and their remedies:
1. Problem - Excessive sweating - Sweating, including feet perspiration, is normal but sometimes it becomes excessive. While we all perspire during exercise or hot weather, others experience sweaty feet most of the time, even during winter.
Remedy - We need to keep our feet dry and clean.
- Cleaning feet regularly with antibacterial soaps.
- Frequently rotate your socks and shoes when they are wet, especially athletic shoes.
- Wear sandals of breathable footwear when it is warm outside.
- Use foot powders to keep feet dry.
- Use antiperspirants to decrease sweating.
- If severe sweating persists, consult physician for possible alternative therapies. These may include Botox injections for hyperhidrosis, among others.
2. Problem - Bacterial/fungal growth – We all have bacteria growing on our skin all the time. Many of these bacteria are friendly contributing to healthy skin flora. Some of the bacteria, particularly when overgrown, can contribute to foot odor. While the sweat is generally odorless, bacterial decomposition of the sweat produces fragrant compounds. It is these compounds that are largely responsible for the smell.
Remedy - We need to keep bacterial and fungal growth in check.
- Use antibacterial soaps when possible and dry your feet thoroughly without too much rubbing of the skin. Sometimes the use of hair dryer to dry your feet is helpful.
- Try to eliminate moisture (growing medium for the organisms) as much as possible. Use appropriate socks with moisture removing properties.
- Inspect your feet regularly making sure no skin breaks occur. If they do, treat them as needed.
3. Problem - Specific skin conditions – Fungal and bacterial infection, as well as other conditions of the feet, can result in foul odor. Generally speaking, most of these conditions cause the skin cells to soften leading to further bacteria or fungal overgrowth (athlete’s foot or toenail fungus) overgrowth and the break down of the tissues. In these cases, the skin can be pink or red with scalyness and fissures (cracks in the skin).
Remedy – Any suspicious skin condition needs a diagnosis
- If a skin condition is suspected, you need to see a doctor. You may need prescription creams, light therapy or antibiotics.
- In the mean time, take care of your feet with soothing compresses and moisturizers.
- When applying moisturizers and other creams, make sure they are not expired. Expired creams can harbor the very bacteria that we are trying to avoid.
4. Problem - Medical conditions – there are some medical conditions that can lead to abnormal foot odor. The most common is diabetes. Diabetes can lead to lower immune and sensation function which can lead to decreased ability to detect skin/food damage and infection. This, in turn, can lead to bacterial, yeast and fungal overgrowth and resulting food odor.
Remedy - Make sure that you are healthy on the inside.
- Excessive sweating can be seen in patients with thyroid problems – have it checked by your doctor.
- Diabetes is very common, particularly in middle and older-age. Have yourself checked regularly particularly if there is a family history of diabetes or immunosuppression.
- Make sure that you inspect your feet regularly. Use mirrors if you have to in order to make sure you have a look in all the corners and valleys. Any break in the skin can develop into a long lasting sore that can lead to abnormal odor and further complications.
Our feet give us much service over the years. Their role is frequently underestimated. I hope that the few remedies suggested in this article will allow you to always put your best foot forward for years to come.
If you have further questions or concerns or wish to book a confidential consultation with Dr. Mariusz Sapijaszko in Edmonton, please call us at 780-424-4440 option 2 or email us.
The information provided on this website is for Canadian patients only and is meant for information and education that is based on experience and research.