Itching feet can be associated with infections, skin irritation, and disorders of the skin and blood vessels. As a diagnostic clue on its own, itching is not very helpful, but often it is accompanied with redness, lesions, and other signs that may be helpful for finding a diagnosis. A general practitioner is usually the first stop for a person with itching feet, and if a referral to a specialist like a podiatrist or a dermatologist is needed, it can be provided after an initial patient evaluation.
Foot infections can include fungal infections, with athlete's foot being the most common, along with bacterial and parasitic infections. In a condition called pitted keratolysis, bacteria infect the skin and a strong odor usually develops. Cellulitis is another potential cause. People who go barefoot outdoors can get scabies, as well as infections with worms and fleas known to penetrate the feet. Someone with itching feet because of an infection will usually notice redness, swelling, a bad smell, and pitting or cracking in the feet.
In phenomenon called sweaty sock syndrome, young people, usually children, develop itchy areas of redness and irritation on the soles of the feet for unknown reasons. Itching feet can also be caused by dermatitis, as well as psoriasis. These conditions can cause redness, blisters, and bumps, along with the itching. They are sometimes painful, especially if they are left untreated for an extended period of time.
In a condition called acroangiodermatitis, the blood vessels inside the feet grow excessively, interrupting blood supply to the feet and causing itching. Another potential cause of itching feet is nerve damage, also known as peripheral neuropathy. When the nerves to the feet are injured, strange signals about sensations may be sent to the brain, and some people experience itching in their feet even though there is no physiological cause.
Treatments for itching feet vary, depending on the underlying cause. Treating the source of the itching should help resolve the problem. If the itching is unbearable, some patients find it helpful to slap the feet, which relieves itching without damaging the skin like repeated scratching does. Topical creams can also help; sometimes reliving dryness with moisturizer, for example, will significantly cut down on itching. Keeping the feet clean and dry is also usually helpful. Doctors may prescribe medications for some patients, especially if the itching appears to be cutting into sleep or is causing extreme distress.