Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a common persistent infection
Caused by a microscopic fungus that lives on dead tissue of the hair, toenails, and outer skin layers (dermatophyte), the fungi thrive in warm, dark, moist environments such as shoes, stockings, and the floors of public showers, locker rooms, and swimming pools.
Athlete’s foot is common and occurs more often in people who typically experience excessive sweating (athletes and non-athletes alike), and it is more common in warmer weather. It can be unusually persistent but should not be ignored and can be easily treated. If not treated it can can lead to cellulitis, a potentially serious bacterial infection.
Symptoms of Athlete’s foot
Athlete’s foot is characterised by itching of the skin on the sole of the foot or between the toes, scaling, peeling, redness, and the formation of small blisters. In general the lesions start between the toes and can extend to the borders and bottom of the foot. The skin between the toes may appear yellowish in colour and may have an unpleasant odour. The fungus has the potential to spread to the toenails and it can also be present in cracked heels.
The usual treatment is an over-the-counter antifungal cream, lotion, or powder containing antifungal agents. If the infection becomes systemic, stronger antifungal medication may be required. Tinea pedis infections can persist for years and may disappear spontaneously. Best results are usually obtained with early treatment before the fungal infection establishes itself firmly.
Prevention is better than cure
- Keep your feet clean and be sure you dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes
- After drying, apply antifungal lotion or foot powder
- Choose ventilated shoes that allow your feet to breathe
- Avoid wearing the same pair of shoes every day
- When you can, go barefoot, the next best thing is to wear sandals or jandals
- When you wear shoes, wear socks too – make sure you change them daily
- Avoid sharing towels, clothing or footwear with others
When to see a Podiatrist
Podiatrists have an important role to play in preventing and managing foot problems. Prompt action is important. Problems which are left without assessment or treatment may result in major health risks.