Is There Surgery to Remove Foot Odor?

For people who suffer from chronic foot odor that does not respond to conventional treatments, surgery may be an option worth considering. While daily hygiene, breathable footwear, and antiperspirants can help reduce foot odor for some, there are those for whom these conservative measures provide little relief. In these cases, surgical procedures to treat excessive foot sweating (hyperhidrosis) may eliminate foot odor at its source.

One surgical option is a sympathectomy, which involves cutting or clamping the nerve pathways that stimulate sweat glands in the feet. Sympathectomies were commonly performed in the mid-1900s before less invasive treatments were developed. While often effective for hyperhidrosis, sympathectomies can have serious side effects including excessive dryness of the feet and even disturbance of circulation. For this reason, sympathectomies have become less common for treating foot odor today.

A more modern technique is the excision or removal of the sweat glands themselves. This can be done through a limited incision on the top or sides of the feet. The surgeon uses a scope and instruments to locate and cut out the sweat glands, sealing off their ducts. With the sweat glands gone, sweat production is reduced, making the feet less hospitable for bacteria. Studies show this method is safe and effective for reducing foot odor when done properly by an experienced surgeon. The procedure does leave some scarring on the feet.

A third surgical option is liposuction of fat tissue from the feet. Eliminating fat cells has been found to decrease sweat gland activity in some cases. Tumescent liposuction uses infused fluid to swell the tissue, allowing the cannula to break up and suction out the fat with minimal damage to nerves or veins. While not as consistently effective as excision of sweat glands, liposuction is less invasive with less scarring and quicker recovery times.

As with any surgery, there are inherent risks to consider, including infection, numbness, and lack of improvement. Proper dressing care and post-op shoes are a must during the first 1-2 weeks after surgery to prevent complications. Results are not instantaneous but you can expect a significant reduction in foot sweating and odor within a month or two. For most patients this relief is permanent. Of course, good foot hygiene is still recommended following surgery.

For those disabled by excessive foot sweat and odor, surgery can provide a real solution where other treatments have failed. Patients interested in surgical options should discuss the pros and cons with their dermatologist or podiatrist. With realistic expectations and proper medical care, foot odor surgery can successfully control this embarrassing problem.