We all sweat to some degree in order to regulate our body temperature, but for some people, excessive sweating can be disruptive to daily life. If you suffer from unusually sweaty feet, you may have a condition called hyperhidrosis.
What is Hyperhidrosis?
Hyperhidrosis is a disorder characterized by excessive sweating beyond what is needed to maintain normal body temperature. It most commonly affects the hands, feet, armpits, and face, but can occur all over the body. Hyperhidrosis can be classified as either primary or secondary.
Primary hyperhidrosis has no apparent cause and tends to run in families. It usually starts during childhood or just after puberty. Primary hyperhidrosis affects nearly 3% of the US population. Secondary hyperhidrosis has an underlying medical cause, such as an infection, hormone imbalance, cancer, or medication side effect.
While profuse sweating may be embarrassing and uncomfortable, it is not generally dangerous on its own. However, hyperhidrosis can have a significant impact on a person’s emotional wellbeing and quality of life. The excessive moisture can promote skin infections and irritations like athlete’s foot. Difficulty gripping objects and slippery feet can affect dexterity and increase the risk of accidents. Many people with hyperhidrosis experience anxiety or depression related to sweat-soaked clothing and social embarrassment.
Symptoms of Sweaty Feet
How can you tell if your sweaty feet are due to hyperhidrosis and not just normal perspiration? Signs and symptoms of excessive foot sweating include:
- Sweaty feet even when you are relaxed and cool, not just with exercise or in hot weather
- Damp footprints left on the floor after taking off your shoes
- Athlete’s foot, warts, or other fungal infections of the toes and soles
- White maceration or overly wrinkled skin on the feet from prolonged moisture
- Unpleasant foot odor, even shortly after washing and applying deodorant or powder
- Difficulty wearing sandals or going barefoot due to slipperiness
- Discoloration or damage to shoes, socks, or hosiery from constant dampness
- Self-consciousness about moisture dripping down your legs or soaked footwear
If your feet are sweaty but you do not experience these additional signs, you may just have naturally moist feet rather than hyperhidrosis. Always consult your doctor for an official diagnosis.
Causes of Excessive Foot Sweating
Hyperhidrosis arises from overactivity of the sweat glands rather than an external cause like heat. Primary hyperhidrosis is thought to have a genetic component, so you may notice a family history of excessive sweating. Those with hyperhidrosis have oversensitive nervous systems that over-stimulate sweat production.
Secondary hyperhidrosis has an underlying medical cause that should be addressed. Causes can include:
- Endocrine or hormone disorders
- Alcohol or drug withdrawal
- Heart conditions
- Neurological disorders
Treatments for Sweaty Feet
Lifestyle remedies – Wear moisture-wicking socks, absorbent shoes, and alternate pairs of shoes daily. Avoid socks with restricted airflow. Use antiperspirant or talcum powder on clean dry feet. Go barefoot when possible. Keep feet uncovered at night.
Medications – Antiperspirants, anticholinergics, beta blockers, or antidepressants may be prescribed to regulate nervous system signals.
Iontophoresis – Running a mild electrical current through water over the hands or feet can temporarily turn off sweat glands. Requires repeated sessions.
Botox – Botox injections block signals from nerves to sweat glands. Provides several months of relief per session.
Surgery – Destroying sweat glands by curettage or removing sympathetic nerve chains by endoscopic thoracic sympathectomy provides longer-term reduction in sweating.
Alternative therapies – Acupuncture, hypnosis, yoga, and biofeedback may help reduce excessive sweating.
Don’t Let Sweaty Feet Stop You
If sweaty feet are disrupting your life, see your doctor to determine the cause and discuss treatment for hyperhidrosis. With several effective options available, you can regain confidence and comfort. You don’t have to let excessively sweaty feet hold you back or be a source of embarrassment. Take control of your condition and take the first step to happy, dry feet!