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The Truth About Athlete’s Foot

Welcome to another blog. Today I’ll be speaking about Athletes foot, a very common condition that is a frequent nuisance in the warmer weather as we all hit the beach or the pool to try and beat the heat.

What is it?

Athlete’s foot is the term used for a common disorder affecting the skin between the toes. It is one of the most common types of fungal skin infection. There are three variations of this condition and each type affects different parts of the foot and varies in appearance from each other.

  • Interdigital infection: usually occurs between the fourth and fifth toes. The skin becomes scaly, peels, and cracks. Some people also may have an infection with bacteria. This can make the skin break down even more. Interdigital infections respond well to treatment.tinea 1
  • Moccasin type infection: may start with a little soreness on your foot. Then the skin on the bottom or heel of your foot can become thick and crack. In bad cases, the toenails get infected and can thicken, crumble, and even fall out. Fungal infection in toenails needs separate treatment. Moccasin-type infections may be long-lasting (chronic) and are very hard to treat.tinea 2

 

  • Vesicular type infection: usually begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters under the skin. The blisters are usually on the bottom of the foot. But they can appear anywhere on your foot. You also can get a bacterial infection with this type of athlete’s foot. Vesicular infections usually respond well to treatment.tinea 3

Symptoms and Causes

Sounds pretty unpleasant. So what causes it exactly? Typically Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus that grows on or in the top layer of skin. Fungi grow best in warm, wet places, such as the area between the toes. You can contract athlete’s foot when you come in contact with the fungus and it begins to grow on your skin. Fungi commonly grow on or in the top layer of human skin and may or may not cause infections. Fungi grow best in warm, moist areas, such as the area between the toes.

Athlete’s foot is highly contagious. You can get it by simply from the touch of an affected area of a person who has it. More commonly, you pick up the fungi from damp, contaminated surfaces, such as the floors in public showers or locker rooms.

Although athlete’s foot is contagious, some people are more susceptible than others. This susceptibility may increase with age as your skin integrity changes. Although some people have severe discomfort, others have few or no symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Peeling, cracking, and scaling of the feet.
  • Redness, blisters, or softening and breaking down (maceration) of the skin.
  • Itching, burning, or both.

The area between the fourth and fifth toes is usually the most common area affected, with soft moist soft skin that peels and flakes off very easily. Often when the skin splits it is uncomfortable and often accompanied by an unpleasant odour.

Will it go away by itself?

Very possible, but if untreated, skin blisters and cracks caused by athlete’s foot can lead to severe bacterial infections. In some types of athlete’s foot, the toenails may be infected.  All types of athlete’s foot can be treated, but symptoms often return after treatment. Severe infections that appear suddenly, and keep returning, can lead to long-lasting infection. You may choose not to treat if your symptoms don’t bother you and you have no health problems that increase your risk of severe foot infection, such as diabetes. However, an untreated athlete’s foot infection causing skin blisters or cracks can lead to severe bacterial infection and if you don’t treat your infection, you can spread it to other people.

OK, you’ve got it, so how do you get rid of it?

How you treat athlete’s foot depends on its type and severity. In many cases this condition is easily treated at home using an over the counter antifungal medicine to kill the fungus or slow its growth.

These over the counter treatments are known as non-prescription antifungals and are typically applied topically (on top of the skin). Prescription antifungals may be tried if non-prescription medicines are unsuccessful or if you have a severe infection. Some of these medicines are may also be topical. Prescription antifungals can also be taken as a pill, which are called oral antifungals.

For severe cases which don’t improve, your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal medicine. Oral antifungal pills are used only for severe cases, because they are expensive and require periodic testing for dangerous side effects. Athlete’s foot can return even after antifungal pill treatment.

Even if your symptoms improve or stop shortly after you begin using antifungal medicine, it is important that you complete the full course of medicine. This increases the chance that athlete’s foot will not return. Reinfection is common, and athlete’s foot needs to be fully treated each time symptoms develop.

How can I prevent this?

Some very simple steps can help protect you from contracting athletes foot, this includes

  • Keeping your feet clean and dry.
  • Dry between your toes after swimming or bathing.
  • Wear shoes or sandals that allow your feet to breathe.
  • When indoors, wear socks without shoes.
  • Wear socks to absorb sweat. Change your socks twice daily if necessary.
  • Allow your shoes to air for at least 24 hours before you wear them again.
  • Wearing shower sandals in public pools and showers.

If any of this sounds familiar to you or someone you know, simply let us know next time you visit and we’ll check it all out for you. Thanks for reading,

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Scott

We have HICAPS available in our clinic, which means that our patients can claim from their private health fund straight away

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Shop 2/17-19 East Parade
Sutherland, NSW 2232

Tel: 02 9542 3491
Email: info@sutherlandpodiatry.com.au