What is “athlete’s foot”?
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a chronic and often painful skin condition that many people experience at some point in their lives. This condition is known as “athlete’s foot”, as athletes are among the most vulnerable groups. This type of fungal infection usually develops between the toes.
What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?
Fungal infection of the feet have several symptoms that help in their identification. Briefly, the symptoms are:
- Redness, irritation and flaky skin
- Itching between the toes and soles of the feet
- Burning sensation and pain
- Malodour (bad smell)
- Wounds / cracks between the toes, and sometimes on the soles and heels
What causes fungal infections of the feet?
Athlete’s foot occurs when a fungus grows on the skin of your feet. The most common fungus that causes fungal infections on the feet is Trichophyton Rubrum. This fungus grows in hot, humid conditions. The risk for the development of the fungal infection of the feet increases when:
- A person wears occlusive footwear with synthetic lining for several hours
- The basic rules of foot hygiene are not followed
- A person has sweaty feet
Moreover, fungal infection of the feet is contagious and can be spread by contact with an infected person or by contact with contaminated surfaces, such as towels, floors, showers and shoes.
What can I do to avoid fungus on the feet?
Maintaining optimal foot health is the most important way to prevent and avoid fungal infection of the feet.
Some basic rules you need to follow are:
- Change your socks daily, and wash them in high temperatures. If your feet sweat excessively, change your socks more than once during a day.
- Do not wear the same shoes for two consecutive days. Always have an extra pair to use and let the shoes dry (preferably in the sun) for at least 24 hours before re-using them.
- Wash and thoroughly dry your feet daily, paying attention to the interdigital areas. Use an alcohol swab to wipe between the toes in order to eliminate the moisture that may develop there.
- Always wear footwear in public places such as swimming pools, common showers etc.
- Choose shoes with a leather inner lining to reduce sweating of the feet.
How is athlete’s foot diagnosed?
The diagnosis is mainly based on history and clinical presentation of the patient. In some cases, laboratory tests are used to diagnose these infections, such as culture and skin biopsy. These tests show if there is a fungal infection.
How is athlete’s foot treated?
This problem can be treated with topical or oral antifungals or a combination of both. Your podiatrist will recognize fungal infection of the feet and will recommend topical medication, such as creams or sprays. If the infection does not respond to topical therapy, then your podiatrist may consider a referral to a dermatologist if necessary, in order to explore the possibility of taking oral antifungal medication.