Itchy feet can affect anyone at any time of the year. They are certainly a nuisance in and of themselves, but they can also cause other issues when we scratch too much. Sometimes, itchy feet can accompany redness, a rash, dry skin, irritation, bleeding and cracked skin. Depending on the cause, itchy feet can also come with other confusing symptoms.
If you’re wondering “why are my feet itchy?” and what you can do to stop it, you’ve come to the right place. Today, we will go over a handful of conditions that cause itchy feet. Of course, we’ll also discuss the most important thing – treatment!
Many people don’t realize how much their lifestyle can dry out the skin on their feet. When there’s no clear culprit behind our itchy feet, it can leave us wondering, “why is my toe itchy?” or “why do the tops of my feet itch?” If this sounds like you, it could be a straightforward case of dry skin.
Everyday actions can lead to dry skin, and they can often be things we don’t realize we’re doing. For instance, not drinking enough water, exposing yourself to too much heat or light, or cold air stripping our skin of its natural moisture. You can also experience dry skin if you take too many hot showers and baths without moisturizing your feet.
If your itchy feet result from dry skin, your skin will flake and crack the more you scratch it. Your skin may also look rough and start to peel or bleed if cracks are deep and irritated.
Luckily, treating dry skin is an easy process you can incorporate into your routine.
Many products available at Feet First can help those with severely dry skin. The key is daily moisturizing, and in severe cases, locking in moisture while your feet are still slightly damp after a shower is an excellent treatment method.
There are several products from the trusted brand Gehwol that thoroughly moisturize the feet, including:
- Med Lipidro Cream
- Fusskraft Hydrolipid Lotion
- Medical Salve for Cracked Skin (a specialized product that helps prevent inflammation in cracked skin)
Sometimes, dry skin affects the heels. If you notice itchy heels at night and during your daily activities, products like Dermal Therapy can help restore moisture in your heels. This product focuses on heel care and contains 25% urea, a critical component of our skin’s moisture restoration system.
An excellent moisturizer is one thing, but a product that also exfoliates is important too! A foot soak or foot scrub, like Gehwol Soft Feet Scrub, will exfoliate dry, cracked, and thickened heels. This will remove any dead, hardened skin and allow your moisturizer to work more effectively. We recommend exfoliating once a week for best results.
Annoying allergies can mess with your health in countless ways, and your feet are no exception. Likewise, your itchy feet could be caused by allergies. Allergic reactions can lead to an itch at the top of the foot, itchy toes and itchy heels. Two conditions that can cause allergic reactions on your feet are:
- Shoe contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction to particular materials or substances used to make footwear. This includes rubbers, dyes, leathers, or glues.
- Allergic contact dermatitis: An allergic reaction caused by chemicals found in moisturizers, detergents, soaps, and similar products.
The good news is this is something you can manage with some lifestyle changes. The best way to start treating contact dermatitis is by avoiding the product you suspect is behind the allergic reaction. For instance, if you’re trying a new detergent, you can stay away from the product for a while to see if it clears up. Similarly, you can try switching shoes for a while if you think shoe materials are the culprit.
Topical antihistamines, like Benedryl, can also help soothe allergies while you determine the cause. It’s also a great idea to inquire with your family doctor about how to get an allergy test!
Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a condition that generally causes dry, itchy toes. It can also target other feet areas, like the soles, tops of the feet, or heels. It can affect anyone, not just athletes!
Athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal infection that spreads via common spaces. Areas known for spreading athlete’s foot include public showers and bathrooms, locker rooms, and swimming pools. Athlete’s foot derives from a fungus that thrives in these warm, moist areas.
In addition to a persistent itch, athlete’s foot can cause other nagging, painful symptoms like a scaly rash, dry skin, blisters and a burning or stinging sensation in the affected area.
The most common treatment for athlete’s foot is a prescription topical antifungal. A chiropodist can prescribe a topical anti-fungal solution at your foot assessment.
At Feet First Clinic, we also have over-the-counter products to help control moisture and reduce your risk of developing athlete’s foot, like ointments, sprays, creams, and powders – all equally effective. You can take home the product you need after consulting with our staff and browsing our shop. Our top moisture-controlling over-the-counter products are:
- GEHWOL Foot & Shoe Deodorant
- GEHWOL Foot Powder
While using an antifungal product, it’s important to ensure your feet stay consistently clean and as dry as possible. If you also have peeling skin, make sure to leave it alone. If you pick at it, it could break, bleed or spread the infection.
Since athlete’s foot can be a recurring issue, other lifestyle changes can also go a long way. For instance, if you frequent highly contagious common spaces, you should start wearing protective footwear. You can also skip public showers and wait until you get home after visiting the gym or the pool.
It’s also essential to wash any clothing that may have been in contact with the tinea pedis. The fungus can spread to your socks, bed sheets and other items that contact your feet. As an extra precaution, try washing these items with bleach and very hot water.
Psoriasis / Psoriatic Arthritis
Psoriasis is a painful skin-related auto-immune disease that affects various body parts, including the feet. Psoriasis causes excessive skin cell build-up, which accumulates and leads to red, bumpy, scaly, itchy patches (also called plaques).
Psoriasis can be debilitating and cause throbbing soreness when it’s particularly bad, making it difficult to enjoy life. Sometimes, its effects can come and go. That said, it is a chronic disease and treatment is always the best course of action to help soothe sudden, severe flare-ups.
There is also a chronic inflammatory arthritis that causes both joint pain and psoriasis symptoms, called psoriatic arthritis. Psoriatic arthritis causes swelling in the toes, warm joints, and thickening or detachment of the toenails.
Corticosteroid creams, ointments are frequently used to treat psoriasis. Retinoid creams and gels are also used to treat psoriasis. Since psoriasis (and psoriatic arthritis) are auto-immune diseases, it’s a good idea to consult with a rheumatologist about your treatment options.
In the case of psoriatic arthritis, your treatment may go a step or two further. This can involve anti-inflammatories or anti-rheumatic medications.
Protective and supportive footwear is critical for psoriatic arthritis patients (or any arthritis patient for that matter). Custom orthotics can also be helpful: They help reduce the strain on your joints and properly align your feet, offering stability. Psoriasis plaques also tend to follow a pressure pattern based on how you distribute your weight. Custom orthotics can redistribute your weight and alleviate pressure on certain parts of the foot, which in turn will help reduce and prevent the psoriatic plaques and the peeling they cause.
Still Not Sure What Causes Your Itchy Feet?
- Bug bites: You should remember seasonality when it comes to itchy feet. If you notice an itch, especially an itchy big toe, a pesky mosquito could be the cause. If the itch is accompanied by a small, swelling roundness and occurs after spending time outside, you may just have an annoying bug bite!
- Scabies: Likely one of the worst-case scenarios for itchy feet, it’s important to ensure scabies isn’t the cause. Scabies is a skin condition caused by Sarcoptes scabiei, a microscopic mite that actually burrows into your skin! With scabies, the itch in your feet will be intense and feel worse at night. There may also be bumps that form a “path” on the skin.
- Diabetes: A common symptom of diabetic neuropathy (damaged nerve fibers that result from uncontrolled blood sugar) is a regular burning or tingling sensation in the feet. Dry skin is also common with diabetes, which can cause itchy feet.
- Thyroid problems: If your itch seems inexplicable, you may have an overactive or underactive thyroid gland. This condition can lead to itchiness on the feet and many other areas of the body.