Pitted keratolysis is a skin condition that causes small, water-filled blisters on the feet. It is caused by bacteria in socks or shoes. Here are some treatment methods and home remedies to treat pitted keratolysis after it’s diagnosed by your doctor.
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Pitted Keratolysis is a Skin Condition
Pitted keratolysis is a skin condition that affects the soles of your feet. Because of this disease, the skin on the forefoot or heel turns white with pitted clusters. This is often accompanied by an offensive odor and is worse when the skin is wet. This odor is the main reason patients seek treatment for this skin condition. If left untreated, this can last for many years.
People who suffer from excessive sweating and those who wear closed shoes for extended duration have a high risk of suffering from this condition. Pitted Keratolysis is a bacterial infection where the bacteria multiply in moist conditions and release enzymes that destroy the horny cells of the foot soles. With time, this turns into characteristic crater like pits on the skin. They also produce sulphur compounds simultaneously that lead to the odor.
What is Pitted Keratolysis?
Pitted keratolysis is a bacterial infection of the skin. It can affect the palms of the hands and, more commonly, the soles of the feet, particularly the weight-bearing areas. This infection causes small depressions or pits in the top layer of the skin. It can also lead to a foul smell. Pitted keratolysis usually affects people who wear enclosed warm footwear for long periods, including soldiers, sailors, and athletes. It also is common in tropical areas where people usually go barefoot.
Pitted Keratolysis Causes
The bacteria species Kytococcus sedentarius, Dermatophilus congolensis, Corynebacterium, or Actinomyces usually cause the infection. These bacteria thrive in moist environments. According to the American Osteopathic College of Dermatology, pitted keratolysis has an association with excessive sweating, but this is not its only cause. Perspiration, along with tight fitting socks or shoes, creates the perfect conditions for the bacteria to multiply. Other risk factors for pitted keratolysis include:
- not drying the feet thoroughly after bathing
- not wearing absorbent socks
- sharing towels with others
Pitted Keratolysis Causes Related Occupation
People whose occupation may increase their risk of pitted keratolysis include:
- sailors and fishing workers
- industrial workers
- people who work in the military
Pitted Keratolysis Risk Factors
Other risk factors that can make someone more likely to develop pitted keratolysis include:
- hot and humid weather
- sweating a lot on the hands or feet
- having thickened skin on the palms or soles
- having diabetes
- being older
- having a compromised immune system
Pitted Keratolysis Symptoms
The major symptom of the infection is clusters of small pits in the top layer of the skin on the soles of the feet. Each pit is usually 1–3 millimetres in size. The skin may also look white or wrinkly. The pits usually cluster around the balls of the feet, the heels, or both. They appear more pronounced when the feet are wet. Without treatment, the pits can join to form a large crater-like lesion.
Pitted keratolysis can also cause an unpleasant smell, but people rarely experience any redness or swelling because this condition is not an inflammatory skin condition. Less commonly, the infection can affect the hands. When this happens, the characteristic pits usually occur on the palms.
How is pitted keratolysis diagnosed?
Your doctor will diagnose pitted keratolysis after reviewing your complete medical history and performing a physical exam to learn more about your symptoms. They might ask questions about the type of shoes and socks you wear, especially around the time you noticed your symptoms.
Tests aren’t always necessary, as pitted keratolysis has a distinct appearance on your skin, but your doctor might offer tests to rule out similar conditions, which could include:
- Culture test: Your doctor will rub a swab over your skin or scrape a small amount of your affected skin off to collect some bacteria to identify it.
- Skin biopsy: Your doctor will remove a small sample of your skin tissue to examine it under a microscope.
Pitted Keratolysis Treatment
Treatment for this skin condition can be categorized under medicinal treatments and home remedies.
Medicinal Remedies for Pitted Keratolysis
- One way to treat this disease is to treat the hyperhidrosis or excessive sweating that triggers it.
- Topical fusidic acid ointments or clotrimazole ointments can also provide some relief.
- Your doctor may also prescribe oral antibiotics to clear stubborn lesions.
- Other treatment options include anti-bacterial soap and injectable botulinum toxin. Using a strong antiperspirant with aluminum chloride can also resolve the issue.
Treat Pitted Keratolysis with 7 Home Remedies
- The first thing you must do if you suffer from this condition is keep your feet dry. Wearing socks with your shoes is a good idea, as this keeps your feet dry and ventilated. Thus, keeping the bacteria from multiplying. After having a bath, pay special attention to drying your feet. You could even use a hair dryer on your feet.
- Wash your feet with soap and water at least twice a day. You could also use an antiseptic cleanser or antibacterial soap.
- Try to reduce the number of hours you wear closed shoes. Wear open-toed sandals. Do not wear the same shoes for two days in a row without giving them time to dry out.
- If possible, change your socks at least once in the day
- Do not share footwear or towels with anyone else
- Apply antiperspirants to the soles of your feet
- Soak your feet in half a bucket of water with 15-20 drops of tea tree oil
Pitted keratolysis can affect anyone, but people who wear warm, closed footwear for long periods are particularly at risk. Prescription antibacterial and antiseptic medicines can treat the infection. With the right treatment, the infection and the smell will usually clear up within a few weeks. It is important to note that the infection can come back. People can help prevent this by ensuring that they keep their feet dry and by avoiding wearing enclosed footwear.
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