The term “athletes foot” typically describes an itchy rash in the feet. Although there are many causes of athletes foot, this term has become synonymous with tinea pedis, a common fungal infection that affects the feet of men and woman. Athletes often experience this problem and hence the name. Tinea is the name of the fungus; pedis comes from the Latin word for foot.
Athlete’s foot is an extremely common skin disorder. It occurs most frequently during and after adolescence and is fairly rare before. Athlete’s foot is the most common and most persistent of the fungal (tinea) infections. It may occur in association with other fungal skin infections such as ringworm or jock itch. The dermatophytes that cause athlete’s foot and similar infections, called tinea infections, live on the dead tissues of the hair, nails, and outer skin layers.
The fungi that cause tinea thrive in warm, moist areas. Susceptibility to tinea infection is increased by poor hygiene, closed-up footwear (such as tennis shoes), prolonged wetness of the skin (such as from sweating during exercise), and minor skin or nail injuries.
Tinea infections are contagious, and can be passed through direct contact, or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces. They also can be transmitted by contact with pets that carry the fungus. Athlete’s foot may be brief or long-term and may recur after treatment.
- Itching, burning, stinging of the skin in the affected area
- Rash on the feet, Heels, palms, between the fingers/toes, or on the nails
- Skin redness or inflammation
- Blisters or open areas; oozing, crusting
- Dry skin with cracks and scales
- Discoloration, thickening, crumbling of the nails
Tinea pedis can be diagnosed by just looking at the rash. This cane be clinically confirmed by scraping a small amount of irritated skin onto a slide. Usually, fungi can be seen under a microscope.
Your general state of health helps to determine your susceptibility to fungal infections. Remaining healthy through diet, rest and exercise is the first step in avoiding fungal infection.
Here are other steps you can take to remain fungus-free:
- Keep your body clean.
- Dry yourself well after showers and baths.
- Shower immediately after athletic activities.
- Wear loose clothing whenever possible.
- Do not share clothing or towels with others; wash towels frequently.
- Clean exercise equipment before use.
- Wear sandals in the shower area at the gym and swimming pool.
Most likely, your doctor will prescribe a topical antifungal treatment for you to apply once or twice a day for at least two weeks.
Because athletes foot commonly comes back, you need to be extra cautious. Daily application of a powder such as talc helps keep the area dry. The itching can be alleviated with an over-the-counter treatment such as Sarna lotion.