when you have itchy feetOne of the most annoying problems I see in my patients is itchy feet. It's tough to concentrate on other things when all you can think about is stopping the itch.

While bug bites and dry skin are quite common causes of itchy skin, other less obvious conditions can also cause be the source of this problem.

If you've already tried some treatments on your own but you're still plagued by itchy skin, make an appointment at the Foot and Ankle Center of Lake City in Seattle to get this problem resolved.

Here are the most common causes of itchy feet I see in the office.

Athlete's Foot

athletes footAthlete's foot is caused by a fungus that's usually found between the toes. The reason it's called athlete's foot is because you can easily pick up the fungus in gym locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools.

In addition, the inside of athlete's shoes are dark and humid the perfect environment for fungus to grow. Don't put off getting this treated since it can spread to the bottom of your feet and to your toenails. When athlete's foot fungus infects your toes, you've developed fungal toenails. Toenail fungus in particular can be very hard to treat.

Apply an over-the-counter powder or cream to the affected areas as directed on the label for up to 1-2 weeks. Effective creams include Lotrimin AF, Lamisil, and Tinactin.

More persistent cases will need a prescription from a podiatrist.

Bugs

Fortunately, in the Northwest we aren't plagued by the same bug infestation as our more humid counterparts elsewhere in the country. But that doesn't mean you'll never get a bug bite on your foot. Topical Benadryl can help reduce the itching. Avoid scratching to prevent infection.

If you do develop redness and swelling later on, it's important to been seen by your podiatrist particularly if you are diabetic or have poor circulation.

Dermatitis

dermatitis and your feetMany people have allergic reactions to natural allergens such as poison oak or chemical allergens such as clothing dyes, adhesives found in bandages, soaps, detergents, rubber in shoes, and fragrance. These allergies aren't always apparent since it can take many days for the reaction to occur. In addition to itching, you may also experience redness, heat, and swelling. An over-the-counter steroid can help but if the condition keeps coming back it's important to eliminate the potential culprit.

Diabetes and Dry Skin

Dry feet are very common in people with diabetes and can make your feet itch. When dry skin cracks or breaks down, wounds often develop which can take a long time to heal. To prevent dry skin from developing we recommend using a really good moisturizer and gel socks. To treat very dry skin we recommend a moisturizer with urea.

Eczema

eczemaSometimes itchy skin on the feet can be a sign of a hereditary condition called eczema. People with eczema have an over-reactive immune system. The eczema is triggered by a substance outside or inside the body and this causes the inflammation that leads to pain and itching.

To prevent a flare-up of itchy skin daily treatment through bathing, applying moisturizers during the day, taking prescription medications, and avoiding triggers are recommended. Application of cold compresses and OTC corticosteroids can also help with mild itch.

Kidney or Liver Disease/Underactive Thyroid

Sometimes itchy feet can be the result of an underlying disease state such as kidney or liver disease or an underactive thyroid. If you have undiagnosed itching that lasts more than two weeks or is interfering with your sleep, make an appointment to see your primary care physician to get it checked out.

Psoriasis

psoriasis and your feetItching accompanied by burning, soreness, and red patches is very likely psoriasis. The symptoms are due to rapid turnover of skin cells. Treatment focuses on preventing this rapid turnover of cells.

Psoriasis can affect toenails by causing pitting, abnormal nail growth and discoloration. The nails can also loosen and separate from the nail bed. In some severe cases the nails crumble. The true cause is unknown but many experts say it's related to an overactive immune system.

Triggers of psoriasis are infections, injury to the skin, stress, smoking, heavy drinking, Vitamin D deficiency, and certain medications. Psoriasis is also a hereditary condition. To reduce symptoms of psoriasis, patients need to avoid their triggers and follow treatment recommendations which include creams and ointments, light therapy, and in severe cases oral or injected medications.

When To Call A Podiatrist for Itching

  • your symptoms do not subside after 2 weeks of self-treatment
  • the red, itchy area gets bigger or spreads to other areas
  • the area becomes warm or swollen
  • you are a diabetic and develop a fungal foot infection
Dr. Rion Berg
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A podiatrist in North Seattle treating families for over 40 years.
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