What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection that affects the upper layer of the skin of the foot, especially when it’s warm, moist, and irritated. The condition is called athlete’s foot because it’s commonly seen in athletes.
Athlete’s foot is caused by the fungus called Trichophyton which is commonly found on floors and in clothing. It is the most common type of fungal infection that mostly develops between the toes. While the condition is not serious, but sometimes it’s hard to cure.
Athlete’s foot symptoms
The possible athlete’s foot symptoms include:
- itching, stinging and burning between your toes or on soles of your feet
- blisters on your feet that itch
- cracking and peeling skin on your feet, most commonly between your toes and on your soles
- dry skin on your soles or sides of your feet
- raw skin on your feet
- discolored, thick, and crumbly toenails
- toenails that pull away from the nail bed
Who is at risk?
Athlete’s foot can occur to men and women of all ages. However, certain actions can increase the risk of developing the condition. The risk factors for athlete’s foot are:
- visiting public places barefoot, especially locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools
- sharing socks, shoes, or towels with an infected person
- wearing tight, closed-toe shoes
- keeping your feet wet for long periods
- having sweaty feet
- having a minor skin or nail injury on your foot
Athlete’s foot causes
Athlete’s foot occurs when the fungus Trichophyton grows on the foot. The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments.
The condition can be spread through direct and indirect contact:
- direct, skin-to-skin contact, may occur when an uninfected person touches the infected area of somebody with athlete’s foot
- indirect contact, in which the fungi can infect people via contaminated surfaces, clothing, socks, shoes, bedsheets, and towels
Athlete’s foot commonly spreads around swimming pools, communal showers, and locker rooms as these places are generally humid and warm.
People with diabetes or a weakened immune system are more susceptible to the condition.
How is athlete’s foot diagnosed?
A chiropodist may diagnose athlete’s foot by observing the symptoms.
If the doctor isn’t sure that a fungal infection is causing the symptoms, they may order for a skin test. A skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam is the most common test for athlete’s foot. In this test, a doctor scrapes off a small area of infected skin and places it in potassium hydroxide. The KOH destroys normal cells and leaves the fungal cells untouched so they are easy to see under a microscope.
How is athlete’s foot treated?
When the person has mild symptoms, athlete’s foot cure can be done by over the counter oral and topical medications. However, elderly people, kids, and pregnant women should not be given some types of antifungals and hence should see a doctor in case of symptoms.
In severe cases or cases when the topical medication does not work, a doctor may prescribe more powerful antifungal medication. Antifungal medications for athlete’s foot treatment are available as:
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How can athlete’s foot be prevented?
There are certain preventive measures that one can take to avoid athlete’s foot infections. They are:
- Washing your feet with soap and water every day and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Washing socks, bedding, and towels in water that’s 140°F (60°C) or higher. Disinfect your shoes by using disinfectant wipes (like Clorox wipes) or sprays.
- Putting antifungal powder on your feet every day.
- Do not share socks, shoes, or towels with others.
- Wear sandals in public showers, around public swimming pools, and in other public places.
- Wear socks made out of breathable fibers, such as cotton or wool, or made out of synthetic fibers that wick moisture away from your skin.
- Change your socks when your feet get sweaty.
- Air out your feet when you are at home by going barefoot.
- Wear shoes made of breathable materials.
- Alternate between two pairs of shoes, wearing each pair every other day, to give your shoes time to dry out between uses. Moisture will allow the fungus to continue to grow.