In most cases, foot odor is the result of a relatively benign condition that can easily be remedied. However, sometimes a doctor must intervene in order to properly diagnose the cause of a persistent odor. Once the doctor has identified the source, he can advise the patient on the proper course of action to eradicate the problem.
KidsHealth blames bacteria for the reek from a person's feet after he has removed his shoes. Apparently, 10 to 15 percent of people endure a particularly nasty form of foot odor due to the presence of micrococcus sedentarius bacteria in their sneakers. This bacteria eats dead skin cells and is attracted to the damp environment of sweaty footwear.
These bacteria produce organic acids and sulfur compounds that smell like rotten eggs. Micrococcus sedentarius that cause smelly feet are a nuisance rather than a health threat. Proper hygiene is key in eradicating the bacteria. Daily foot washing, frequent sock changes and alternating between wearing different pairs of shoes can all help minimize the growth of bacteria on feet.
One of the most common sources of foot odor is fungal growth, and as if the stink was not bad enough, fungi can also cause skin on soles to become scaly or cause peeling between the toes. This condition is called athlete's foot or tinea pedis. Athlete's foot spreads from person to person in damp environments such as locker rooms, where the fungi breed and come in contact with bare skin.
Broken skin due to blisters can increase vulnerability to fungal infestation, according to "Fitness Magazine." Fungal infection can be treated with over-the-counter powders.
When sweat glands work overtime, stinky situations can ensue. MayoClinic.com explains that eccrine glands are sweat glands that exist on most of the surface of the body. The autonomic nervous system responds to increases in body temperature by stimulating the secretion of sweat onto the skin’s surface, thus cooling the body through evaporation.
Some people experience exaggerated sweat responses in their armpits, hands or feet, a condition known as focal hyperhidrosis. Body odor of the feet and armpits can result from hyperhidrosis.
For some people, hyperhidrosis can inspire such extreme feelings of embarrassment that they isolate themselves, thus their social and emotional lives suffer. In certain cases, doctors will recommend medications to address the symptoms.