The feet are the most popular area for infection by certain fungi called Dermatophytes, causing Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot). This ailment is another very common problem we encounter at our Clinic, and is experienced by up to 70% of the population at some time in their life. Adult males are most affected, but it’s rare in women. It can also affect children regardless of gender.
The name Athlete’s Foot may suggest that the fungus can only infect those who regularly take part in athletic activities. However, the fungus that causes it can be found on floors in gyms, locker rooms, yoga studios and swimming pools; also in nail salons, airport security lines, socks and clothing.
Walking barefooted on areas where someone else with Athlete’s Foot has walked, tight shoes, with little or no breathing room, and wearing damp socks are contributors to the survival and spread of Athlete’s foot. Some people including those with diabetes, HIV/AIDS, cancer or other immune problems may be more prone to this condition while others seem relatively resistant to contracting it.
Is it Contagious?
Athlete’s Foot may spread from person to person, but not always, depending on the person’s immunity level. There are many households where two people (often husband and wife or siblings) using the same showers and bathroom for years have not transmitted the fungus between them. The exact cause of this predisposition or susceptibility to fungal infections is unknown. Some people just seem more prone than others.
Symptoms and Signs
Common symptoms of athlete’s foot typically include various degrees of itching and burning. The skin may frequently peel, and in particularly severe cases, there may be some cracking, pain, and bleeding as well.
The skin between the little toes tends to be affected at first. A rash develops that becomes itchy and scaly (sometimes white, yellowish or green in tone). The skin may become cracked and sore. Tiny flakes of infected skin may fall off, and the rash may gradually spread along the toes and soles, if left untreated. Occasionally, a scaling rash on the entire sole and side of the foot may occur.
Types of Athlete’s Foot
There are three known types of infections that cause Athlete’s foot. They are Toe Web, Moccasin-type, and Vesicular. Each of these has different symptoms and appearance, with Toe Web being the most popular.
Toe web infection, also known as inter-digital infection, is usually formed between the fourth and fifth toes and looks like scales on some people’s feet. Usually very moist looking, it can graduate into cracked and peeling skin. If this happens, it means that are bacteria exists. Bacteria will produce a faint odor and is enough indication that your infection is in severe state.
Is Athlete’s Foot serious?
Not always, however, most people treat their itchy toes before it spreads. Sometimes the infection spreads to the skin on other parts of the body. A fungus does not usually go deeper into the body than the skin. However, other bacteria may enter through the cracked skin of the untreated foot. This can occasionally cause more serious infections of the foot or leg. It is best to treat athlete’s foot as soon as symptoms start.
The treatment of athlete’s foot can be divided into two parts. The first, and most important, is to keep the area clean and dry to restrict growth of the fungus. Other measures include:
Buying shoes that are made of a breathable material. Some shoe materials cause your feet to remain moist, providing an excellent breeding ground.
Buying absorbent socks, like cotton, that wick away water from your feet.
Seeking advice from your foot health specialist if your infection is not clearing up; or if redness, increased swelling, and bleeding persists. Antifungal soaps and ointments, and in some cases medicated powders help. More advanced or resistant cases of athlete’s foot may require a course of an oral (tablets) antifungal treatment as prescribed by a doctor. Some oral treatments could cause liver damage; so do the necessary research.
Being careful in your general operations. It is not necessary to stay away from work, school or sports. Do, however, wear footwear in changing areas.
Not scratching the area as this may spread the infection.
Disinfecting your footwear to contain the fungus.
Be faithful in carrying out your treatment until the symptoms have cleared up.
“Prevention is better than cure”. With that said, one should try to exercise the necessary precautions for avoidance of the infection. Here are 6 key ones:
Constantly air out your feet when you return home, especially if you have worn closed up shoes for most of the day, either at work or at school.
For the athletic type, it is recommended that you wear shower shoes or waterproof sandals while at the pool, or at the fitness center, and other places that are deemed high risk.
Stay clear of shoes that are made of either vinyl or rubber as these are not well-ventilated shoes.
Always keep your feet dry and pay particular attention to the areas between your toes. Slipping your shoes off, for a few minutes at a time, during the day can help your feet and shoes air out between activities.
Socks and stockings should be changed daily and even shoes should be changed often especially if you have sweaty feet.
Cotton socks are best when it comes to avoiding the signs of Athlete’s Foot.
Finally, if you reside with an infected person or if you are treating your Athlete’s Foot, it’s critical to practise the following:
- Do not share your shoes, socks or towels with others or use their things.
- Disinfect the shower stall on a daily basis.
- Separate the towels used to dry your feet after a shower from other towels; they should also be heavily sterilised.
- Avoid walking barefooted in the house.
Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!