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Pitted Keratolysis

Happy Feet: Your Guide to Pitted Keratolysis

Do you ever find yourself avoiding being barefoot due to embarrassing foot issues? Have you noticed pits or craters on your feet, causing discomfort and self-consciousness?

Fear not! You just might be dealing with a commonly occuring condition known as Pitted Keratolysis.

This comprehensive guide by Manhattan Medical Arts will help you navigate through the details of this foot condition, providing you with valuable insights, from its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, pitted keratolysis treatment, and more.

What is Pitted Keratolysis?

Pitted Keratolysis is a dermatological condition primarily affecting the soles of the feet. It is characterized by the formation of small pits or depressions on the skin, often accompanied by unpleasant odors. These pits are caused by the breakdown of keratin, the protein responsible for skin integrity.

Who Gets It?

Pitted Keratolysis is prevalent in individuals with factors that create a conducive environment for bacterial growth. Common risk factors include excessive sweating, warm and humid climates, and prolonged periods of wearing closed footwear. Athletes, soldiers, and individuals with hyperhidrosis are particularly susceptible.

Is Pitted Keratolysis Contagious?

No need to worry about passing it on to others. Pitted Keratolysis is not contagious at all. It’s a result of bacterial overgrowth on the skin’s surface due to certain predisposing factors.

What Causes Pitted Keratolysis?

Pitted Keratolysis is primarily caused by a combination of factors that create an environment conducive to bacterial overgrowth on the skin’s surface. The key contributors include:

  • Prolonged Moisture: Excessive sweating or wet conditions, especially in closed footwear, create an ideal breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Warm Temperatures: High temperatures, coupled with humidity, contribute to the proliferation of bacteria on the feet.
  • Occlusive Footwear: Wearing tight or non-breathable shoes hinders proper ventilation, promoting the retention of moisture.
  • Bacterial Colonization: Corynebacteria and Actinomyces, commonly found on the skin, play a significant role in the breakdown of keratin, leading to the characteristic pits associated with this condition.

Symptoms of Pitted Keratolysis

Pitted Keratolysis brings along distinctive symptoms that are easily recognizable. Keep an eye out for:

  • Pits on the Soles: Small, crater-like depressions on the skin, particularly on the weight-bearing areas of the feet.
  • Unpleasant Foot Odor: A characteristic malodor often described as foul or cheesy emanates from the affected areas.
  • Crater-Like Appearance: The skin may exhibit a rough or eroded texture around the pits.
  • Mild Itching or Burning: Some individuals may experience slight discomfort, itching, or a burning sensation.

How to Diagnose?

Diagnosing Pitted Keratolysis typically involves a straightforward process guided by a healthcare professional:

  • Visual Examination: A dermatologist will examine the affected areas, looking for characteristic pits, crater-like formations, and associated symptoms.
  • Skin Scraping or Culture: In some cases, a skin scraping or culture may be performed to identify the specific bacteria responsible for the condition, aiding in targeted treatment.

The diagnostic process is non-invasive and helps determine the most suitable course of action for managing Pitted Keratolysis effectively.

Side Effects of Pitted Keratolysis

While Pitted Keratolysis itself is not harmful, its untreated cases can lead to secondary infections, cellulitis, or more severe skin conditions. Timely intervention is essential aspect to prevent any complications.

Pitted Keratolysis Treatment Options

Effectively managing Pitted Keratolysis involves various approaches that are tailored to each individual’s needs. Common treatment options include:

  • Topical Antibiotics: Prescription or over-the-counter antibacterial creams or ointments target the underlying bacterial overgrowth.
  • Antiperspirants: Specialized foot antiperspirants help control excessive sweating, reducing the moisture that fosters bacterial growth.
  • Keratolytic Agents: These agents, containing ingredients like salicylic acid, aid in removing dead skin cells and promoting skin renewal.
  • Proper Foot Hygiene: Regular washing, drying, and airing of feet, coupled with the use of breathable footwear, play a vital role in preventing recurrence.


Following precautions can be taken to try and steer clear of this skin condition:

  • Keep feet clean and dry
  • Choose breathable footwear
  • Rotate shoes regularly
  • Use moisture-wicking socks

Home Remedies for Pitted Keratolysis

Listed below are the most effective home remedies for pitted keratolysis:

1) Saltwater Soak:

  • Mix warm water with salt.
  • Soak your feet for 15-20 minutes.
  • Salt helps control bacterial growth and promotes skin healing.

2) Neem Oil Application:

  • Apply neem oil to affected areas.
  • Neem’s antimicrobial properties combat bacteria, reducing inflammation and odor.

3) Vinegar Foot Soak:

  • Create a solution with equal parts water and white vinegar.
  • Soak feet for 15 minutes.
  • Vinegar’s acidity helps restore the skin’s natural pH and inhibits bacterial growth.

4) Mint Leaves Poultice:

  • Crush fresh mint leaves to form a paste.
  • Apply the paste to affected areas.
  • Mint’s cooling and antimicrobial properties provide relief.

5) Ginger and Olive Oil Mix:

  • Mix ginger juice with olive oil.
  • Apply the mixture to affected areas.
  • Ginger’s antibacterial properties, combined with olive oil’s moisturizing effects, promote skin health.

6) Clove Oil Massage:

  • Dilute clove oil with a carrier oil.
  • Gently massage the mixture onto the affected areas.
  • Clove oil’s antimicrobial properties alleviate bacterial overgrowth.

7) Basil Leaf Paste:

  • Crush basil leaves to create a paste.
  • Apply the paste to affected areas.
  • Basil’s antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties aid in healing.

8) Almond Oil Soothe:

  • Apply almond oil to affected areas.
  • Almond oil’s moisturizing properties soothe irritated skin while combating bacteria.

9) Rosewater Rinse:

  • Mix rosewater with water.
  • Rinse affected areas with the solution.
  • Rosewater’s gentle astringent properties help maintain skin hygiene.

10) Activated Charcoal Absorbent:

  • Create a paste with activated charcoal and water.
  • Apply the paste to affected areas.
  • Activated charcoal absorbs toxins and excess moisture, promoting a dry environment for healing.

When Should I See a Doctor?

If you’re experiencing symptoms of Pitted Keratolysis, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional:

  • Persistent Symptoms: If pits, odor, or discomfort persist despite home remedies and proper foot care.
  • Worsening Condition: If the condition is worsening or spreading to other areas of the feet.
  • Secondary Infections: In the presence of secondary infections, such as redness, swelling, or increased pain.
  • No Improvement with Home Care: If home remedies show no improvement within a reasonable timeframe.
  • Underlying Health Concerns: Individuals with diabetes or compromised immune systems should seek prompt medical attention.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you get Pitted Keratolysis?

Pitted Keratolysis is often triggered by factors like prolonged moisture, warm temperatures, occlusive footwear, and bacterial colonization.

Is Pitted Keratolysis Dangerous?

While not inherently dangerous, untreated cases can lead to secondary infections or complications, emphasizing the importance of timely intervention.

Can Pitted Keratolysis Go Away by Itself?

In some cases, mild Pitted Keratolysis may improve with proper foot hygiene and care, but professional intervention is recommended for persistent or severe cases.

How to Get Rid of Yellow Feet?

Yellow discoloration of the feet can be caused by various factors. Consult a healthcare professional to determine the underlying cause and appropriate treatment.

What Happens if Pitted Keratolysis Goes Untreated?

Untreated Pitted Keratolysis can lead to complications such as secondary infections, cellulitis, or more severe skin conditions.

What are Pitted Keratolysis Treatment at Home?

Home remedies for Pitted Keratolysis include saltwater soaks, neem oil application, vinegar foot soaks, mint leaves poultice, ginger and olive oil mix, clove oil massage, basil leaf paste, almond oil soothe, rosewater rinse, and activated charcoal absorbent. However, consult with a healthcare professional for persistent cases.

– Disclaimer –

This blog is for informational & educational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute any professional medical advice or consultation. For any health related concerns, please consult with your physician, or call 911.

Medically Reviewed

Last reviewed by Dr. Syra Hanif, M.D. on 01/19/2024

Learn more about our editorial process.

  • About The Author

    Dr. Syra Hanif M.D.

    Board Certified Primary Care Physician

Dr. Syra Hanif is a board-certified Primary Care Physician (PCP) dedicated to providing compassionate, patient-centered healthcare.

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