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Pitted keratolysis in Adult
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed

Pitted keratolysis in Adult

Contributors: Daniel Gutierrez MD, Noah Craft MD, PhD, Lindy P. Fox MD, Susan Burgin MD
Other Resources UpToDate PubMed


Pitted keratolysis (also known as keratoma plantare sulcatum and ringed keratolysis) is a noninflammatory bacterial infection of the plantar stratum corneum caused by any of the following bacteria: Kytococcus sedentarius (formerly Micrococcus sedentarius), Dermatophilus congolensis, or species of Corynebacterium or Actinomyces.

Affected areas are generally asymptomatic but can emit a foul odor due to the production of isovaleric acid by the bacterial metabolism of the leucine in sweat. Rarely, pruritus, pain, or burning may be present. Predisposing factors are excessive sweating and prolonged occlusion in a warm, humid environment. Although rare, the hands may be affected.


L08.89 – Other specified local infections of the skin and subcutaneous tissue

51212009 – Pitted keratolysis

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Diagnostic Pearls

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Differential Diagnosis & Pitfalls

  • Tinea pedis – Usually scaly and erythematous. Hyphal elements can be demonstrated using a potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation.
  • Tinea nigra – Presents with a black pigmented patch.
  • Dyshidrotic dermatitis – Presents with pruritus, scale, and pinpoint vesicles on the palms, soles, and lateral digits.
  • Subacute and chronic hand and foot Atopic dermatitis, including Nummular dermatitis and Allergic contact dermatitis.
  • Punctate palmoplantar keratoderma – Has firm keratotic papules.
  • Webspace Erythrasma – Typically hyperkeratotic but can be erosive. This shows coral-red fluorescence on Wood's lamp examination. Concomitant erythrasma and pitted keratolysis may be seen. 
  • Plantar wart – Show more vascularity and sometimes the black dots of thrombosed capillaries. 
  • Arsenical keratosis – Pitting is associated with the other features of arsenism such as teardrop pigmentation.
  • Basal cell nevus syndrome (Gorlin syndrome) – Palmoplantar pits can be seen but usually in the presence of other stigmata of the condition, including odontogenic keratocysts and numerous basal cell carcinomas, among other findings.

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Last Reviewed:10/28/2019
Last Updated:12/05/2019
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Patient Information for Pitted keratolysis in Adult
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Pitted keratolysis in Adult
A medical illustration showing key findings of Pitted keratolysis : Macerated skin, Pits, Hyperhidrosis, Plantar foot
Clinical image of Pitted keratolysis - imageId=230692. Click to open in gallery.  caption: 'Multiple tiny keratin pits on the heel.'
Multiple tiny keratin pits on the heel.
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