Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a fungal infection of the foot that presents as a rash and is often found between the toes. More than half the population will at one time or another develop athlete’s foot. It affects men more than women, and it becomes more common with older age.
Symptoms of athlete’s foot are:
Dry, red, scaly and flaky skin
White, soggy, cracked skin
The affected skin may be covered in small blisters
In severe cases, skin damaged by athlete’s foot can become infected with bacteria. This can lead to cellulitis (an infection of the deeper layers of skin and underlying tissue) which may cause the skin to become red, hot and swollen.
Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) is caused by a fungus that usually affects the skin between the toes or elsewhere on the foot. The affected skin may be itchy, red, scaly, dry, cracked or blistered. While it can be very uncomfortable it is not usually serious but should be treated to stop it spreading to other parts of the body or to other people.
It is caused by a number of fungal species which you can pick up from someone else shedding affected skin (usually in communal areas such as pools, showers and changing rooms) or where you walk around barefoot.
If left untreated, the fungus can spread to the toenails causing thickening and yellowing of the nail which is much harder to treat. Fungal infections are highly contagious and can spread to anywhere on your skin including your scalp, hands and even the groin. For this reason it is important to use a separate towel to dry your feet if you know that you have Athlete’s foot.
Treatment depends on the type of Athlete’s foot you have. For Athlete’s foot where the skin conditions are dry, you need to restore moisture by applying an anti-fungal cream or spray, sometimes combined with a steroid cream. If the skin conditions are moist this requires an altogether different type of treatment. Do not use moisturisers or powders as these may irritate the skin. However, powders are good for dusting inside shoes and trainers. A spirit-based preparation such as surgical spirit can help as it is cooling, soothing and antiseptic.
We will advise you as to which combination is best to use in between visits. If the fungal infection has spread to your nails, this can also be addressed by reducing the thickness and cutting back the nails thereby exposing the infected nail bed to a lighter, cooler environment or to application of appropriate treatment. Sometimes an anti-fungal tablet is prescribed by your GP.
You are advised to wash your feet in as cold water as you can bear (as hot water only makes your feet fungus-friendly). Then dry them thoroughly, either with a separate towel or kitchen roll. It is important to dab your feet dry rather than rub them, as rubbing tends to disturb any healing skin. You must remember to wash your hands thoroughly afterwards, or use disposable gloves so you don’t get the fungus on your hands at all.
Change your socks and footwear daily. Socks should be made of natural fibres like cotton, wool or bamboo. Wear flip-flops in the bathroom and in public showers. This will not only ensure that you don’t leave your dead skin around for others to pick up, but will stop you picking up other species of fungus. Do not stop good foot hygiene, shoe rotation and medication too soon. Symptoms may disappear after several days or weeks of treatment but the fungus can lie dormant and could eventually reappear if the environment is right. Some products need to be applied for many weeks, always follow the instructions.