What is Athlete’s Foot ?
Athlete’s Foot, also known as tinea pedum or ringworm of the foot, is a fungal infection in the feet and more specifically between the toes which is caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes which feed off dead skin cells. These fungi tend to multiply and develop rapidly if the feet are left dirty or wet for a long time. For example, if the feet remain confined in tight fitting shoes for a long time even after getting sweaty, chances are that you will get infected with the Athlete’s Foot. The infected part of the foot turns red, the skin dries, gets flaky and a kind of rash develops.
Causes of Athlete’s Foot
The main cause for this disease is the development and growth of the dermatophyte fungi which live on our skin. The growth of this fungus escalates in damp and humid environment. Therefore, if the feet are left encased in tight shoes for long periods of time, they tend to get sweaty and dirty which promotes the growth of dermatophytes. It is worse for people who tend to sweat a lot. Dirty or damp socks are also a major cause. Besides, Athlete’s Foot is a highly infectious disease. It can be transferred from one person to another even if their feet brush against each other for a couple of seconds.
Keep the following symptoms in mind for identifying Athlete’s Foot –
- A red rash which looks scaly develops between the toes.
- The skin around the rash will go dry and flaky.
- The rash tends to itch a lot even while you are wearing shoes and it is worst when you take the shoes and socks off.
- A severe case of Athlete’s Foot may also result in ulcers and blisters on the feet.
- The skin on the sides of your feet may also turn extremely dry and scaly, much like it happens with eczema.
- The infection may spread to your fingers if you scratch it continuously.
Often, people mistake Athlete’s Foot for a regular case of dry skin or eczema. But there are some signs of Athlete’s Foot which you must keep a look out for so that you can treat it on time. It usually starts when a part of the skin gets white and soft because of being wet for a long time. It may even give out a bad odour because of the developing bacterial infection. Apart from the dry, scaly skin and red rash, you may also notice the skin getting crusted or cracked. In some cases, the cracks in skin also start bleeding. Athlete’s Foot is also much more painful than a normal rash.
Generally, an experienced doctor can easily identify an Athlete’s Foot just by physical examination. However, to confirm it, the following tests can be conducted:
- KOH Test – This test conducted with the help of a solution of Potassium Hydroxide can confirm whether it is a fungal infection or a normal case of dry skin.
- Fungal Culture – This test will identify the type of fungi present in the infected area.
- Biopsy – In case of severe or complicated cases, a small portion of the infected skin tissue can be taken to be studied in detail under a microscope.
Athlete’s Foot can be easily diagnosed on visual inspection only. The doctor may also ask about your medical history to see whether you are prone to fungal infections or not. Some people also recommend the use of Wood’s lamp or black light to view the infection to see whether fungi is present but it is not effective for Athlete’s foot because dermatophytes, the fungi responsible for this infection, does not fluoresce under ultraviolet light. Doctors can also choose to conduct a fungal culture or a biopsy depending on the severity of the rash.
Athlete’s Foot can be treated on your own even without visiting the physician. Once you are sure that there is a fungal infection on your foot, there are some precautions which you must follow. First off, keep your feet clean at all times and try wearing sandals or other open footwear till the infection is not cured. Your doctor or chemist can also prescribe some antifungal OTC medications like Desenex and Lamisil AT which are quite effective. For severe cases, topical antifungal drugs like miconazole nitrate and clotrimazole may also be prescribed.
Athlete’s foot can easily be prevented by following the below listed tips:
- Keep your feet clean by washing them with soap and water at least twice a day.
- Do not wear the same pair of socks two days in a row.
- Do not share socks, towels etc. with others.
- Put antifungal powder on your feet and especially in-between your toes.
- Stay barefoot when you are at home to give your feet air to breath.
Types of Athlete’s Foot :
Athlete’s Foot can be classified into 3 main types:
- Interdigital – This is the most common type and occurs between the toes of the feet. The symptoms are quite general like dry skin, whitening and softening of skin and bad odour because of the infection.
- Plantar (moccasin foot) – The symptoms of this type are same as that of Interdigital. The only difference is that Plantar starts from the sole of the foot and may later spread to the toes.
- Vesiculobullous – This also starts from the sole of the foot but is much more painful and severe than the other two as it immediately starts off with itchy blisters and vesicles which may take a long time to cure.
The worst part about Athlete’s Foot is that it is highly infectious. Not only can it be transferred to other people but it can easily spread to other parts of your body too. Frequent scratching of the rash may cause it to spread to your palms and fingers. Often it also infects the toenails as well as the groin area which can really cause you a lot of discomfort.
Images, Pics and Photos of Athletes Foot :
Home Remedies :
The best home remedy to cure the angry, red rash on your feet is to soak your feet in salt water or diluted vinegar so that the blisters can dry up faster. Another great remedy which you can try out is to use tea tree oil which has been proved to be immensely effective in cooling off the rash. You can even use any cream or ointment which contains tea tree oil. In the meanwhile, make sure you keep your feet clean so that the infection does not spread.
There are two major steps to treating Athlete’s Foot. The first is to make sure that your feet remain clean and dry to prevent further growth of the fungus. Regular application of antifungal or talcum powder is also highly recommended. The second step is to consult either your doctor or chemist for the appropriate antifungal topical drug like miconazole nitrate or clotrimazole. For infections on the sole of the feet where skin tends to be more resistant to antifungal drugs, urea, salicylic acid or lactic acid drugs may be used to treat the infection. KOH solution also works quite well as an alternative to antifungal drugs.
Chances of Secondary Bacterial Infection :
Athlete’s Foot is not a very severe infection and can be cured within a few days. But if not treated on time, it can be the cause of a secondary bacterial infection which can cause the foot to swell and can be very painful. It may also start oozing out pus and may raise the body temperature too. If this happens, it is best to rush to your doctor.