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Can Genetics Cause Excessive Sweaty Feet?

For those who suffer from perpetually sweaty feet, the condition can be uncomfortable, embarrassing, and downright frustrating. But what causes excessive foot perspiration in the first place? And is it possible that genetics play a role?

Hyperhidrosis is the medical term for excessive sweating beyond what is necessary to maintain normal body temperature. Primary hyperhidrosis has no apparent cause, while secondary hyperhidrosis is the result of an underlying medical condition or medication. However, experts believe genetics can be a factor in both.

The Culprit Could Be Your Genes

Many physicians and researchers theorize that primary hyperhidrosis, which frequently affects the feet, is hereditary. While no definitive gene has been identified yet, studies on twins suggest genetics are very likely involved.

One analysis found that if one identical twin has hyperhidrosis, there is an 80% chance the other will too. For fraternal twins, who share only 50% of genes, the concordance rate drops to just 50%. This indicates a genetic component is at play, rather than environmental factors alone.

Additionally, it is estimated that 30-50% of individuals with primary hyperhidrosis have at least one close family member with the same condition. If both parents have excessive sweating, a child has a 25% chance of inheriting the tendency.

How Genetics Influence Sweat Glands

To understand how genetics can lead to excessive foot perspiration, it helps to first understand a bit about sweat glands. There are two types located in the skin that respond to signals from the sympathetic nervous system:

Eccrine glands: Found across most of the body, including the soles of the feet. Produce a clear, odorless fluid containing water, minerals, and other substances. This helps regulate body temperature.

Apocrine glands: Located in areas like the armpits and groin. Secrete a milky, viscous sweat that provides nutrition for bacteria on the skin, causing odor when broken down.

Research shows that people with hyperhidrosis appear to have a genetic abnormality that causes their eccrine glands to be overactive. This leads to overproduction of sweat beyond what is normal or necessary.

While the specific genetic mechanisms are still being researched, scientists believe mutations or variations in genes result in the sweat glands becoming overly sensitive to signals from the nervous system telling them to produce sweat. Even minor stimuli can trigger excessive sweating.

Other Possible Causes

While many physicians attribute primary hyperhidrosis largely to genetics, other factors could potentially play a role as well. These include:

  • Hormonal changes or imbalances
  • Anxiety, stress, neurotic personality traits
  • Enlarged sympathetic ganglia (nerve clusters) that control sweating
  • Subclinical infection
  • Nervous system disorder

Additionally, secondary excessive sweating has a clear underlying cause, like:

  • Endocrine or hormonal diseases (hyperthyroidism, menopause, diabetes)
  • Obesity
  • Cancer
  • Neurological conditions (Parkinson’s disease)
  • Medications
  • Gout or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Alcoholism, drug withdrawal

Research strongly suggests that inheriting a genetic susceptibility from one or both parents is the prevailing reason why some people struggle with perpetually sweaty feet. While other factors can trigger or contribute to the problem as well, it seems that DNA plays a primary role in many cases of primary hyperhidrosis.

Figuring out the exact genes involved is an ongoing effort. But for sufferers, confirming that genetics are largely to blame can help them understand and come to terms with dealing with this inherited, chronic condition. Thankfully, various effective treatment options are available today to help keep excessive foot perspiration under control.