‘Toe jam’ is not exactly a medical condition and is the throw away comment used by lay people for that yucky stuff that can build up between your toes and can have an unpleasant foul odor. What gets called toe jam is just a collection between the toes of a number of different things including the dead skin cells, lint from sock and other debris that get moistened by the lack of evaporation of the sweat that develops between the toes. A fungal or bacterial infection may develop as well on top of that.
What causes toe jam?
The tight spaces between the toes, especially if you wear shoes all day is a great place for the dead skin cells and other things to accumulate and build up. This is made worse if you sweat a lot. The “cheesy” like odor that develops is the result of bacteria breaking down the excessive sweat between the toes.
Differentials for toe jam
There are number of clinical conditions that toe jam can be mistaken for, including: tinea pedis (fungal infection; Athletes foot), interdigital maceration, erosio interdigitalis blastomycetica or it could just be the normal skin microbiome.
Treatment of toe jam
To get rid of toe jam you need to practice daily good foot hygiene. This means you need to wash your feet daily, especially between the toes thoroughly and then drying carefully between the toes. The space between your toes can also be wiped with methylated spirits (or surgical spirits), as the evaporation of that will help it dry out even more.
Wearing open-toe shoes or going barefoot as often as possible to let the air circulate between the toes is also going to be very helpful, and so will be the toe spreaders as they allow air to move between the toes.
Changing the socks during the day will help as the drier socks can absorb more moisture and wick it away from the foot. This could be important if your employment requires you to wear closed in footwear.
If the problem has gone beyond the plain ‘toe jam’ and an infection (bacterial or fungal) has developed, you still need to do the above, but will probably also need to apply an anti-fungal or antibacterial.
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