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What is Plantar Hyperhidrosis?

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  • Written By: wiseGEEK Writer
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 11 August 2018
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Plantar hyperhidrosis is a condition that causes excessively sweaty feet and accompanying foot odor. "Excessive" is usually defined as the point at which the condition interferes with a person’s social or daily functioning by creating discomfort or embarrassment. There are many forms of hyperhidrosis; people can also have very sweaty palms or underarms. These conditions usually aren’t controlled by normal antiperspirants and they do need to be noted to a physician, as they can either be focal and derive specifically from the way messages are sent to the nerve glands, or they can be generalized, appearing in many areas of the body and caused by an underlying condition. Most often, plantar hyperhidrosis is focal and may have a genetic component.

As stated, plantar hyperhidrosis can result when the sweat glands are signaled to produce sweat in the feet too often, so that amount of perspiration is pronounced. The exact reason for this extra signaling is not known, but it has been linked at times to stress. Those with this condition may sweat more when they are under stress or extra perspiration may be noted in times of physical exertion or during warmer weather.

Constantly sweaty feet may feel uncomfortable and cause problems like foot odor. Sweat can stain and damage the insoles of shoes like sandals, which are often worn barefoot. Plantar hyperhidrosis also is linked to higher risk for developing bacterial and fungal infections on the feet and toenails.

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To counter these effects, people can try home treatments first. There are recommendations to bathe or shower daily, to change wool or cotton socks twice a day, and to work on practices that help reduce stress. Learning how to do tai chi, yoga, breathing exercises, or meditation is advised. While these suggestions may help reduce plantar hyperhidrosis slightly, many people turn to mainstream medical treatments, too.

The first of these is using a prescription antiperspirant on the feet. It may be applied once or twice a day. If plantar hyperhidrosis is profound and does not respond to this treatment, other proposed methods include drug treatment with anticholinergic drugs, which can have side effects, minor electrical shock treatment to the feet, Botox® injections or surgery.

Surgery is of two types. It can either remove the sweat glands in the feet, or sever the communication from the sweat glands to the nerves that are signaling them. Surgical methods are usually the last considered because many people respond to less invasive treatments, especially when they also implement home care suggestions.

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