Pitted Keratolysis-a common & curable cause of smelly feet

Pitted Keratolysis-a common & curable cause of smelly feet

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Pitted Keratolysis- a common & curable cause of smelly feet


What is Pitted Keratolysis?

Pitted Keratolysis is a common cause of smelly feet. But unless you look closely you may not realise you have it. Several different bacteria may be to blame, including Corynebacteria, Dermatophilus Congolensis, and Micrococcus Sedentarius.

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smelly feet

What are the symptoms of Pitted Keratolysis?

Pitted Keratolysis causes particularly smelly feet, and on closer inspection you’ll see lots of small “pits” on soles of the feet (tiny round shallow holes in the surface of the skin). Often these are most obvious on the thicker skin of the weight bearing areas. Sometimes these pits join up to form larger lesions.


Who gets Pitted Keratolysis and why does it happen?

Anyone can get it, though it’s more common in men, possibly due to getting sweaty feet from physical work, particularly if wearing non-breathable footwear. The pitting happens because the bacteria produce enzymes which break down the outer layers of skin, and the smell is caused by sulphur-based substances released by the bacteria.

How do you treat Pitting Keratolyisis?

To alleviate the pitting and smelly feet, there are a number of things you can do.

Simple self-treatment of Pitting Keratolysis:

A few simple steps may help get rid of Pitting Keratolysis, and should be continued after the infection settles, to prevent it happening again.

  • Avoid wearing non-breathable footwear that causes your feet to sweat
  • Wear moisture-absorbing insoles- have a few pairs so you can rotate them on a daily basis
  • Wear cotton socks, and change them every day
  • Try to wear open footwear like sandals or thongs when you can.
  • Wash your feet twice a day with soapy water and/or water containing antiseptic (e.g Betadine, Dettol etc)
  • If you have very sweaty feet, a roll-on 20% Aluminium antiperspirant may be used on a daily basis also.
  • Wash socks in a high temperature machine wash- it has been recommended that temperatures over 60C are needed to kill Corynebacterium from fabric.

Topical Antibiotics

A variety of antibiotic creams can help- such as Erythromycin, Clindamycin or Fusidic Acid cream. They usually need to be applied twice a day for 3-4 weeks to clear the infection fully.

Oral Antibiotics

Oral antibiotics are rarely required, but in severe cases may need to be considered.

There are other causes of smelly feet, including fungal infections. Certain forms of eczema and other infections may cause an unpleasant odour.

If you’re not sure what is causing your symptoms, speak to your GP or pharmacist.


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About the Author:

Aifric Boylan
Originally from Ireland, Dr Boylan is an experienced GP based in Melbourne. She is also committed to innovation in the area of online medicine and health technology. Aifric is a keen distance runner, and plays the violin, but not at the same time…

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