Foot Health

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal (dermatophyte) infection that usually begins between the toes and can spread to the soles of the feet. The same fungus recurs often and can eventually spread to infect the nail beds.

Since the 1930s, the most common site of fungal infection has changed from children’s scalps to the toes of adults. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates the global prevalence of fungal infections (dermatomycosis) is approaching 20 percent. Tinea pedis is by far the most common fungal disease and 15 to 25 percent of people have athlete’s foot infections at any one time. The presence of tinea pedis triples the risk of leg cellulitis and increases the risk of diabetic foot infections as well.


Symptoms

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include a scaly rash that usually causes itching, stinging and burning. Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels or clothing.

Athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections such as ringworm and jock itch. It can be treated with over-the-counter antifungal medications, but the infection often recurs. Prescription medications also are available.


There are three types of tinea pedis:

Athlete’s foot usually causes a scaly red rash. The rash typically begins in between the toes. Itching is often the worst right after you take off your shoes and socks.

Interdigital, the most common form typically occurs in the fourth and fifth toe web spaces but can spread to all the toe webs. It is usually characterised by wet skin, scaling and itching of the skin and can also be infected by bacteria.

Some types of athlete’s foot feature blisters or ulcers called vesiculobullous tinea pedis. It presents with tiny itchy “bumps” that develops on a red base in the arch, interdigital spaces (between the toes) spaces and other non-weight-bearing surfaces.

The moccasin variety of athlete’s foot causes chronic dryness and scaling on the soles that extends up the side of the foot. It can be mistaken for eczema or dry skin.

The infection can affect one or both feet and can spread to your hand and other parts of the body – especially if you scratch or pick at the infected parts of your feet.

When to see a doctor

If you have a rash on your foot that doesn’t improve within two weeks of beginning self-treatment with an over-the-counter anti-fungal product, it’s time to see your doctor.

If you have diabetes, see your doctor right away if you suspect you have athlete’s foot, especially if you notice any signs of a possible secondary bacterial infection such as excessive redness, swelling, drainage or fever.


Causes

In 70 percent of the cases, the primary cause of tinea pedis is a fungus called trichophyton rubrum. It is the same type of fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch. Damp socks and shoes and warm, humid conditions encourages the organism to grow especially in shoes.

Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread by contact with an infected person or from contact with contaminated surfaces, such as towels, floors and shoes.

Risk factors

It commonly occurs in people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tight-fitting shoes. You are at higher risk of athlete’s foot if you are a man, frequently wear damp socks or tight-fitting shoes, share mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection and walk barefoot in public areas where the infection can spread, such as locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, communal baths and showers.

Complications

Your athlete’s foot infection can spread to other parts of your body, including:

Your hand: People who scratch or pick at the infected parts of their feet may develop a similar infection in one of their hands.

Your nails: The fungi associated with athlete’s foot can also infect your toenails, a location that tends to be more resistant to treatment.

Your groin: Jock itch is often caused by the same fungus that results in athlete’s foot. It’s common for the infection to spread from the feet to the groin as the fungus can travel on your hands or on a towel.


Prevention

These tips can help you avoid athlete’s foot or ease the symptoms if infection occurs:

• Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Go barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re home. Dry between your toes after a bath or shower.

• Change socks regularly. If your feet get very sweaty, change your socks twice a day.

• Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.

• Alternate pairs of shoes. Don’t wear the same pair every day so that you give your shoes time to dry after each use.

• Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms.

• Treat your feet. Use powder, preferably antifungal, on your feet daily.

• Don’t share shoes. Sharing risks spreading a fungal infection.

Diagnosis: In some cases, your doctor may be able to diagnose athlete’s foot simply by looking at it. To help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions, your doctor might take a skin scraping or skin sample from your foot and send to the lab for testing. If the foot is moist, a sample of the fluid may be taken and sent to the lab also.


Treatment:
If your athlete’s foot is mild, your doctor may suggest using an over-the-counter anti-fungal ointment, cream, powder or spray.

If your athlete’s foot doesn’t respond, you may need a prescription strength medication to apply to your feet. Severe infections may require antifungal pills and sometimes antibiotic pills to take by mouth.

Lifestyle and home remedies

These tips can help you ease the symptoms of athlete’s foot or avoid a recurrence:

• Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Go barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re home. Dry between your toes after a bath or shower.

• Change socks regularly. If your feet get very sweaty, change your socks twice a day.

• Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.

• Alternate pairs of shoes. Don’t wear the same pair every day so that you give your shoes time to dry after each use.

• Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms.

• Treat your feet. Use OTC (over-the-counter) antifungal product as directed daily. For example, creams may be applied to dry feet twice a day and used for a week even after the rash is gone.

• Try not to scratch the rash. You can try soothing your itchy feet by soaking them in cool water.

• Don’t share shoes. Sharing risks spreading a fungal infection.

• Wash clothes with hot water.


• For more information on foot conditions, visit www.apma.org, healthcentral.com, or email us at foothealth242@gmail.com. To see a podiatrist, visit Bahamas Foot Centre, Rosetta Street, or telephone 325-2996 for an appointment at Bahamas Surgical Associates Centre, Hilltop Medical, or call 394-5820 for an appointment. You can also visit Lucayan Medical Centre in Freeport, Grand Bahama, or telephone 373-7400 for an appointment.

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