Many persons come to the Clinic seeking help for itchy feet, since they are unable to find medication that works. But more importantly, they tend to be at a loss regarding the cause.
An uncomfortable sensation which is usually as a result of a fungal infection or skin condition, the main diagnoses that are made are: athlete’s foot, psoriasis, dermatitis and eczema, with athlete’s foot reigning supreme. In tropical climates, this is even more common, as it is often coupled with sweating in the feet.
In general, itching occurs more during the night because of the drop in adrenaline and cortisone, and the increase in histamine that occurs while we lie resting. These changes are related to the rhythm of hormones in our bodies.
What Causes It?
Additional causes from those mentioned above include:
-Irritants such as laundry detergent, soap, or perfume
-Insect, tick, or flea bites
-Poisonous plants such as poison ivy
-Hormonal changes, especially in pregnant women
Washing your feet is just as important as washing your hands. Bacteria are naturally present on our skin, and there are more than 250,000 sweat glands located on each foot and they are continuously sweating. Without soap and water, and given a warm, moist location such as in shoes and socks made of suffocating materials like nylon, the bacteria will begin to grow when mixed with sweat, causing itchy, smelly feet. There are also medical conditions such as ancylostoma duodenale that list itchy feet as a symptom. Ancylostoma duodenale is a parasitic hookworm infestation that is typically contracted by walking barefoot in damp soil. Not only does this condition make one’s feet itch, it makes the entire body itch.
Itching can be dangerous since excessive itching can lead to a breakage in the skin, which exposes the person to infection. Itchy feet can also be an indicator of another problem, and they produce symptoms of their own, such as:
-Blisters or open sores
Many of these symptoms arise after the person continually scratches the foot for a long time. It does not take much scratching to turn your skin red and weaken it, making it susceptible to flaking or cracking.
If you have itchy feet and are unaware of any problems such as infection, dry skin, or allergies, you should consider having your feet examined by your GP, dermatologist or podiatrist. Fungal infections are progressive, and it could take years for additional symptoms such as yellow toenails to appear. Your doctor will give you a physical exam and possibly take samples of your skin or sores to test under a microscope in order to make a diagnosis. Once a diagnosis is made and the cause of the itchy feet is determined, a proper treatment plan can be created.
Treatment and Prevention
Treatment for itchy feet will depend on the cause. If you have a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot, antifungal medication can be bought over the counter or prescribed by GP or podiatrist. If you are suffering from dry skin or a skin condition, therapeutic ointments and creams can be prescribed to fight the itch and additional symptoms such as dry skin that may be causing the itch. Often cortisone cream is used to treat itchy feet. For more severe cases an oral steroid may be used. Treatment will also involve prevention measures, including:
-Keeping feet clean at all times
-Keeping feet thoroughly dry, particular between the toes.
-Wearing clean hosiery, socks and shoes
-Wearing socks and shoes made of breathable materials
-Wearing gloves and/or socks at night
-Keeping nails trimmed short and smooth
-Not going barefoot in public showers, locker rooms, pools, or gyms
-Following your doctor’s or podiatrist’s instructions at all times.
If possible, talk with your doctor or podiatrist before purchasing any over-the-counter medication. As well, AVOID self diagnoses! Depending on the severity of your case, the over-the-counter products may not do anything for you.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!