Athlete'S Foot

1 What is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal skin infection of the toes and soles of the feet.

Infection causes

  • itching,
  • scaling,
  • burning

in the foot. This is a contagious infection and spreads from one person to another by walking on contaminated objects.

Walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms is the most common cause of infection.

As the name indicates, athlete’s foot is more commonly seen among athletes.

Antifungal medications are used to treat the infection, but it may recur.

It may be hard to cure in people with conditions like diabetes or a weak immune system. 

2 Symptoms

Initial symptom of Athlete's foot is the appearance of scaly, reddish rashes between the toes.

This region may have itching and burning which spreads to the soles of feet. Feet may develop blisters.

The skin peels or cracks in between the toes and on the soles. Dry skin is also characteristic of infection.

Toe nails become thick and crumble. It is often discolored and separate easily from the nail bed.

Some infections may cause ulcers in the region. One variety of causative organism causes dryness and scaling of the soles that extend to the sides of feet.

This resembles symptoms of eczema or that of dry skin.

Infection spreads from one feet to another and even to hands due to scratching or picking.

3 Causes

Athlete’s foot is caused by fungal infection. The fungus spreads from one person to another through direct contact or by touching contaminated surfaces. This fungus thrives well in warm and humid conditions like damp socks and shoes. It is commonly found in locker room floors, floor around swimming pool, and in showers.

Athlete’s foot is more commonly seen among males when compared to females. Wearing damp socks and tight-fitting shoes is a major risk factor for this infection. Sharing mats, bed linens, and shoes also increases chances of tinea infection.

Higher risk of athlete’s foot is associated with walking barefoot in public places like

  • locker rooms,
  • showers,
  • wimming pools.

Having a weak immune system also increases the risk of getting infection.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Diagnosis of Athlete's foot is based on review of signs and symptoms. Other tests help to differentiate conditions that may have similar symptoms.

Potassium hydroxide (KOH) test helps in confirmatory diagnosis of athlete’s foot.

Skin sample from the affected area of the foot is placed in KOH to destroy the normal cells.

The fungus is then clearly visible in microscopic analysis of the sample.

Viewing the affected region under black light from Wood’s light also reveals fungal infection. 

5 Treatment

For mild infections, over-the-counter antifungal medications are recommended treatment for Athlete's foot.

It is available in the form of

  • lotions,
  • creams,
  • powders.

Prescription medications are suggested when the infection does not respond to over-the-counter medications.

Oral antifungal medications are suggested for severe infections of feet. 

6 Prevention

Some simple steps can help prevent Athlete's foot.

  • Avoid walking barefoot in public places like locker rooms, showers, and swimming pool
  • Keep feet clean and dry
  • Remove shoes and allow skin to breathe
  • Avoid contact with infected people
  • Ensure use of hygienic and uncontaminated tools in nail salons

Those who have had a fungal infection in the foot earlier should disinfect shoes periodically by using antifungal powder.

Prefer cotton socks to other materials.

7 Alternative and Homeopathic Remedies

A few alternative and homeopathic remedies exist for Athlete's foot.

Tea tree oil is considered to be a good natural remedy for treating fungal infection.

Grapefruit-seed extract also have antifungal properties which may be of use in controlling symptoms.

Adding clove and garlic to the diet is of use due to their antifungal properties.

Vinegar soaks and dilute Clorox soaks are easy home remedies for treating athlete’s foot. 

8 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with Athlete's foot.

Simple self-care measures help to keep the feet dry and clean

  • Remove the shoes and expose your feet at home
  • Use cotton socks
  • Dry your feet, especially after using a public shower or swimming pool
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public places
  • Avoid borrowing and using other people’s shoes

9 Risk and Complications

There are several risks and complications associated with Athlete's foot.

The fungal infection may spread from feet to other parts of the body like

  • hand,
  • nails,
  • groin.

Infection of toenails are more resistant to treatment.