Athlete’s foot is a the most common type of fungal skin infection and while it may affect the entire foot, it tends to occur more on side of the feet and between the toes. Athlete’s foot or feet fungus as it is sometimes called is medically known as tinea pedis (tinea ~ fungal infection, pedis ~ foot). Athlete’s feet can affect men or women and is more common in people who use closed shoes or have sweaty feet.
What causes athlete’s foot?
Fungus Feet Causes
Athlete’s foot is caused by a skin fungus or ‘ringworm’. The type of skin fungus involved in athlete’s foot is known as a dermatophyte which is different from yeasts. However, an yeast infection can sometimes arise between the toes when the skin is broken. Like any fungus, it thrives in dark, warm and moist areas of the body. The feet are therefore a perfect environment for a fungal infection.
A fungal infection of the skin on the feet is more likely to occur in people who perspire excessively (this provides a water supply for the fungus) and use closed shoes (warmth and darkness). But this does not mean that every person with sweaty feet and those using closed shoes will contract a foot fungus. Usually the fungus enters the skin through a tiny break or tear and since the feet are such a hard working part of the body, they are more prone to skin damage.
If you are exposed to a communal bathing area like the public showers at the gym, then the fungus is more likely to pass from one person to another. Using contaminated clothing like socks and shoes or personal items like a towel may also spread the fungus among people. There is also a high degree of recurrence.
What are the signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot?
The presentation of athlete’s foot is the same as other fungal infections of the skin. Typically there is a somewhat round or oval rash with red, raised borders and peeling skin in the center. Initially a person may complain of itchy skin on the feet and this gradually progresses into the typical rash. Bleeding or an oozing, sticky discharge may also be noticed and there may tiny red vesicles (‘water pimples) on the affected area.
A foot fungus thrives between the toes. The small, tight gaps between the toes make it the perfect spot for a fungal infection to grow and spread. Here it may appear like a white or green rash in between the toes or under the toes. The infection may also cause cracking or ulcerate the skin exposing the underlying tissue.
What does athlete’s foot look like?
Pictures of Athlete’s Foot
The damaged skin caused by the fungus can be seen between the toes. (Source: atlasdermatologico.com.br)
Widespread foot fungus affecting the soles. (Source: commons.wikimedia.org)
Fungus (ringworm) on the side of the foot extending to the ankle. (Source: atlasdermatologico.com.br)
What is the treatment for athlete’s foot?
Fungal Foot Treatment
Treatment involves the use of antifungal creams containing terbinafine, miconazole, itraconazole and fluconazole. If this does not resolve the infection then you may have to use oral antifungal medicines. Your doctor or dermatologist will overlook your treatment and decide if you oral antifungal pills are necessary.
In athlete’s foot that is infected with bacteria, your doctor will first treat the bacterial infection with an antibiotic cream and then start with the antifungal treatment.In severe cases of athlete’s foot, it may be necessary to use a corticosteroid cream to settle the rash slightly before using antifungal creams, gels and pills.
How to prevent feet fungus?
You should limit your exposure to areas or items that may pass an infection from another person. Use rubber slippers or flip-flops when bathing in a gym shower. Do not share socks, shoes or towels. Always dry your skin thoroughly after bathing and if necessary, apply a drying powder to your feet and socks, especially if your suffer with sweaty feet.
Try to use open shoes as often as possible or go barefoot when at home. Air your feet and shoes as often as possible and do not allow your feet to remain damp for long periods if it gets wet. Athlete’s foot can be quite a persistent infection and it is better to take these steps to avoid a foot fungus rather than treating it once it occurs.