The changing colors of fall leaves also represent the changing of wardrobe, as we all ditch our tank tops and flip flops for parkas and boots. For most, the drop in temperature brings a much-awaited break from the sticky, humid summer days that leave us all reaching for a towel to wipe our sweaty brow. For those affected with hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating, even the coldest of winter nights have no barring on the amount of sweating they experience.
Hyperhidrosis, literally translated as excessive sweating, usually affects young adult men more than any other group of people. Most patients that experience excessive sweating of the feet also find that they suffer from excessive sweating of the hands due to the similar soft tissue make up of the palmar and plantar surfaces of the hands and feet.
The exact cause of hyperhidrosis is unknown but does follow a genetic pattern, meaning that if you experience signs and symptoms of hyperhidrosis, likely mom and dad do as well. It is thought that the root cause is related to the body’s internal “thermostat”. Much like a thermostat in a house, the body also utilizes an internal thermostat that seems to be set incorrectly in patients affected by excessive sweating. This incorrect set point leads the body to cool itself through sweating at a much lower set point than the average person. This explains why patients with hyperhidrosis seem to sweat almost all of the time. Anxiety related to the social stigma of excessive sweating can lead to sweat-induced sweating, thus exacerbating the symptoms.
Excessive moisture to the feet can lead to significant medical concerns. Increased moisture to the plantar surface of the foot can lead to a whitish appearance, called maceration, which represents the breakdown of the outer layer of the skin and allow for topical bacterial and fungal infections to set in. As a result, foot odor is also a common finding.
Treatment starts at home with good foot hygiene. This includes washing feet daily with antibacterial soap, including in between toes, and dry feet thoroughly. Use of foot powder and moisture wicking socks can help control the amount of moisture on the feet. 100% cotton socks should be avoided; the moisture will become trapped in the sock rather than wicked away and can lead to blister formation. I also recommend that patients carry an extra pair of socks with them to school or work to allow for a midday change of socks when your first pair becomes too saturated.
It is estimated that at least 40% of patients with hyperhidrosis do not seek medical attention. A podiatrist can usually easily diagnose hyperhidrosis based on the reported symptoms by the patient and through a physical exam.
Treatment options will be discussed with you at your appointment with your podiatrist. Each patient can expect a specifically tailored treatment plan based on his or her individual symptoms. Most patients are treated with one of a variety of over-the-counter and prescription antiperspirant medications. Topical Formadon and Bromi-Lotion are common treatment options we recommend at Kansas City Foot And Ankle. More aggressive treatment options include iontophoresis and surgical sympathectomy. Botox injections have been described as viable treatment options for excessive sweating to other areas of the body, but due to pain associated with injection and temporary solution of this treatment option (symptom relief of only several months on average) this is treatment modality is not frequently used.
Many patients I personally encounter in the clinic have only tried roll-on style antiperspirants that provide only mild relief, which ultimately leads to patient frustration and persistent wet feet. Don’t stay down and wet. Let the physicians of Kansas City Foot And Ankle get you and your feet high and dry.