Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is a contagious infection which is caused by a fungus. Fungi responsible for causing athlete's foot include Trichophyton, Microsporum, and Epidermophyton. While the infection can affect any part of the foot, it is most common between the toes.
Despite its name, it doesn't just affect athlete's foot. Though the name is rooted in athleticism due to the warm, moist environments which athlete's' feet are subjected to during activities.
The condition is estimated to affect 15% of the population and effects more men than women. Fungal infections can develop from an overgrowth of the natural fungi which live on our skin. But infections can also be contracted from physical contact with contaminated surfaces, such as towels, socks, shoes and the floors of communal changing facilities.
If you have an infection of athlete's foot, it is important to seek treatment in order to prevent the infection spreading to other areas of your body, or anyone else's.
Typically, athlete's foot infections appear at the front of the foot, around and between the toes.
Symptoms may include:
In rare cases, the infection can spread to the soles of the feet and cause different symptoms, including:
If you notice the symptoms of an athlete's foot infection and are unsure whether you have an infection, speak to your doctor.
Athlete's foot can be prevented by keeping your feet clean and dry.
You should avoid traversing barefoot across changing rooms to reduce your chance of contracting the infection. Wear sandals or flip-flops when you are by the pool or in changing rooms. Footwear such as these exposes the fungi to harmful UV radiation which can kill the cells. Of course, it's important to express caution when exposing your skin to dangerous UV rays.
While wearing clean, dry socks every day is a great preventive measure, you should consider changing your socks in warmer weather or after sporting activities. After changing your socks, wash your old socks as soon as possible to prevent the conditions for fungi to thrive.
A common strategy to prevent the development of athlete's foot is to 'air out' the feet and allow them to 'breathe'. As you exercise, your body produces sweat to cool itself down. The sweat evaporates from the skin and takes the heat with it. However, shoes, socks and other porous material can absorb this sweat. Not only will the moist environment breed bacteria, but the material prevents the heat from escaping the body. Letting your feet 'breathe', by not wearing socks or shoes for a short while, can allow the sweat to effectively evaporate, cooling the skin and preventing the build up of moisture.
Spraying the inside of your shoes with an antifungal spray, while not always necessary, can provide some preventive benefit and peace of mind. Using an antiperspirant on your feet can also help to reduce sweating and keep your feet fresh.
Fungi, such as those which cause athlete's foot, can survive on surfaces such as towels, socks and other material. Due to this, it is important to keep these materials clean. Regularly wash your socks and towels and keep them dry to avoid them becoming infected.
Using a towel contaminated with fungal spores can increase the risk of the infection spreading, which may cause a fungal nail infection or a fungal infection elsewhere on the body.
By taking the right precautionary measures, athlete's foot can be averted.
Athlete's foot does not clear up on its own and, if left untreated, can lead to a fungal nail infection. If you are suffering a bout of athlete's foot, you should seek treatment to prevent the infection from spreading to other parts of your body or to other people.
Athlete's foot is typically treated with anti-fungals. These medicines work in one of two ways to eliminate the fungal infection from the foot.
Some medicines work by inhibiting the fungal cells' ability to produce a substance they need to survive. Without this, the cells become weak and are destroyed.
Other medicines work by preventing the fungus from spreading. This gives the immune system a better chance of eliminating the infection.
The treatment you use for athlete's foot depends on how severe your particular infection is. For many cases, an antifungal topical cream can be applied directly to the affected area of skin. These topical treatments contain ingredients which can bring relief from the itching and discomfort that athlete's foot causes. More severe cases may require an oral antifungal.
Our prescribing doctors can prescribe the right treatment for you based on your condition.
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