Also known as tinea pedis is a very common disease found mostly in athlete’s; reason where it gets its name. The fungal infection affects the upper skin layer of the foot and can spread to toenails and hands. It can appear anywhere on the foot; sole, toe webs and back of foot.

The fungus Trichophyton that causes athlete’s foot can be contracted in many locations such as gyms, locker rooms, communal showers, nail salons, swimming pools and by sharing shoes and socks from a person that is infected. It is only found in warm, moist environments therefore it only infects the skin if the conditions are right.

Other causes can be by contact with allergens, sweat, tight-fitting shoes, keeping feet wet for long periods of time and closed-toe shoes.  

It is mostly seen as a moist, white scaly or sore lesion in between the toes that can spread to the sole. The other common type is a dry scaly form that will cause a lesion over the soles of feet. It is most commonly seen in both feet and may involve painful blisters.

Symptoms

Most common symptoms are itching, burning and a stinging sensation in between the toes, and soles of feet; depending on where it is located. Dry skin on soles or sides of feet are very common as well as discolored and thick toenails.

Since it is highly contagious, if people do not wash their hands after touching their feet, it is very probable that other parts of the body can be infected. Hands and groin area are at higher risk to be contaminated.

Diagnosis

Most people recognize athlete’s foot when they see it, but others just assume it is dry feet and do need to seek professional help to get the right treatment. The most common test is the skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam.  A little area of the skin is scrapped and placed in KOH solution, leaving the infected cells with fungi visible in the microscope. In very rare occasions, a biopsy is ever needed.

Treatment

There are many over the counter medicines you can get to treat this disease. Most of the time, the symptoms and cases are mild so there is no need to make an appointment to see a doctor. OTC (over the counter) medicines are topical and should include clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, and terbinafine to name a few.

If athlete’s foot cases are more severe, a doctor will change treatment and usually prescribe oral medicine such as griseofulvin, itraconazole and terbinafine. These treatments usually last over 6 months and can't be combined with other medicines and alcohol. Be sure to tell your doctor every medicine you are taking and if you have ever suffered from any liver conditions before using them.

Complications

Most fungal infections last a week, others can last up to months if they are not treated correctly. Some complications may occur if treatment isn’t given early or if your immune system is altered such as people who suffer from diabetes, cancer and HIV/AIDS. A secondary bacterial infection may occur and feet may appear swollen, painful, red, and hot. If the secondary infection is left untreated it may lead to cellulitis. Affecting deep in the skin, leading to serious complications such as sepsis or bone infection.

Being a contagious disease, it can spread to the toenails. Nails will become, whitish, thick and crumbly. Treating onychomychosis takes longer and will need liver test controls because of the medication.

To avoid a reinfection, avoid wearing same shoes, share clothing and wash your feet and hands constantly.

References:

  • https://www.healthline.com/health/athletes-foot#prevention
  • https://www.medicinenet.com/athletes_foot/article.htm
  • https://www.emedicinehealth.com/athletes_foot-health/article_em.htm
  • https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/261244.php
  • picture source: https://pixabay.com/
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