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Athletes foot


What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a skin fungal infection, medically known as tinea pedis. Athlete’s foot is one of the most common fungal skin disorders and it is estimated 70% of people will get it at some time in their lives. The name athlete’s foot gets its name as the infection is often associated with people who play a lot of sport. This can be due to spending time in locker rooms or due to the fact that your feet tend to get moist and hot with exercise and in tight fitting trainers this is an ideal condition for fungi.

What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot usually causes a scaly red rash, itching and inflammation. The rash typically starts   between the toes but can also be found on the sole and side of feet. The itchiness is usually worse when socks and shoes are first removed. As athlete’s foot develops it can make the skin crack and peel this can be very sore. Large splits can develop and ulcers or blisters might also develop. The infection can affect one or both feet and when persistent can make it painful to walk. The infection can spread to the nail, the nail might look discoloured and the area around the toe can thicken this can make wearing shoes painful. The infection is much harder to treat when it has spread to the nail.

What causes athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus. Fungi love humid, damp conditions and since most of us spend the majority of our day in socks and shoes, once infected this is an ideal condition for the fungi to thrive and grow.

What are the risk factors for athlete’s foot?

You are more likely to get athlete’s foot if you:

  • Frequently wear damp socks or tight fitting shoes and don’t keep them clean.
  • Share towels, floors etc with a person who has a fungal infection.
  • Walk barefoot in communal areas such as saunas, swimming pools, gyms or locker rooms, which are commonly warm and damp.
  • Low immune system
  • Having diabetes can put you more at risk.

Is athlete’s foot contagious?

Yes, athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread by skin to skin contact or from walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces for example floors of locker rooms or showers.  When showering or changing just a tiny flake can fall off from an infected persons foot, then if trodden on the infection can be spread. It can also be spread by sharing contaminated items such as towels, bed sheets, clothing and shoes.

What is the diagnosis for athlete’s foot?

A doctor can diagnose athlete’s foot by examining the foot, the doctor might scrape the affected skin and send it away to confirm what type of fungi is causing the infection.

What is the treatment for athlete’s foot?

Treatment for athlete’s foot involves eliminating the fungi. Most cases of athlete’s foot can be treated effectively with over the counter anti-fungal products and good hygiene. The most effective creams to buy are antifungal creams that contain clotrimazole. For more information on clotrimazole or to purchase click here.

Ensure you continue treatment for 2 weeks after the symptoms have cleared.

If the treatment hasn’t worked or you have diabetes then you should book an appointment to see your doctor. Antifungal tablets can be prescribed for stubborn infections. If you continue to suffer your doctor might suggest a swab is taken so the exact organism that is causing the infection can be identified.

How do I prevent athlete’s foot?

As fungi thrive in damp conditions try to keep the foot cool and dry. Always ensure you dry your feet thoroughly, especially the space between the toes after washing or bathing. You should always try to buy shoes and socks that allow your feet to breathe. Change your footwear on a regular basis or try to alternate the shoes you wear to allow the shoes to dry out. Apply an antifungal foot powder to the affected area to help protect your feet and reduce the friction between the foot and sock. Avoid nylon socks and plastic shoes and if possible wear open shoes made of leather or canvas, give your feet a chance to breathe whenever possible.

Never share socks, shoes or towels. If you have athletes foot always wash towels in the hottest water possible.

When using communal swimming/showers areas wear waterproof shoes or flip flops and avoid walking around barefoot. Make sure if you have pedicures that the instruments used are cleaned thoroughly.

What are the long-term effects of athlete’s foot?

Most people can usually treat the condition before it spreads. However, if left untreated athlete’s foot can spread to other areas of the foot or even other parts of the body. If you itch or pick at the infected area it can develop an infection in your hands. It can also spread to your toenails or your groin. It is quite common to spread to the groin area as it can be transferred with towels or on your hands.  When touching the infected area always wash your hands thoroughly after.

In severe cases, damaged skin can become infected by bacteria leading to cellulitis, an infection of the deep layers of skin. If you suspect cellulitis you should contact your doctor straight away for treatment.