Athlete's Foot. Dermatophytes

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1 Athlete's Foot Introduction Athlete s foot is a skin infection of the foot caused by fungus. It is also called tinea pedis. It usually begins between the toes or on the bottom of the foot. However, it can spread to other parts of the body. Athlete s foot is the most common type of fungal infection. About 70-80% of the world s population will have athlete s foot at some point in their life. It is usually not dangerous. This reference summary will help you better understand athlete s foot. It explains its causes, treatment, and how to prevent it. Foot and Fungi Millions of microscopic germs are in the air and on our skin. Fungi are one type of germs. They are like mold. The skin and fat of the feet are the first barriers to prevent germs from entering the inner parts of the foot to the blood where it can cause severe infection. If any germ penetrates the skin, the body starts fighting any infection with special cells that can kill harmful germs. Infection-fighting cells and tissue-repairing cells reach the infection through the bloodstream. A special type of fungi called dermatophytes cause athlete s foot. These germs are always on your skin but your body fights them off successfully if your skin is dry and clean. Dermatophytes 1

2 Causes The fungus that causes athlete s foot grows in warm, moist areas. It is known as a dermatophyte. The condition is called athlete s foot because it is common in the feet of athletes where the damp socks and warm shoes create the perfect conditions for the fungi to grow. Athlete s foot is very contagious. It can spread from person-to-person with direct contact. It can spread through contact with infected shoes and socks. It can spread if you walk on a surface where an infected person has walked. This is common in gym showers and the surfaces around swimming pools. Anybody can get athlete s foot. However, it is more common in men than in women. It is also more common in athletes who wear tight fitting shoes or walk barefoot in public places. Fungus thrives in a warm, moist environment. This can happen if: You wear shoes that don t allow air flow You wear plastic shoes You keep your feet wet for a long period of time Your feet sweat a lot You have a minor foot injury Complications Although athlete s foot is usually not dangerous, there are some possible complications that athlete s foot can cause. You are at a higher risk for complications if you have diabetes or weakened immune system. You should contact your doctor sooner if you have the symptoms of athlete s foot and one of these conditions. Some people may also have an allergic reaction after having athlete s foot. Blisters may develop on your fingers, hands, or toes. 2

3 A rare but possible complication is that a bacterial skin infection could develop, such as cellulitis. Bacterial skin infections can further damage the skin and can be more resistant to treatment. You should contact your doctor right away if your foot is swollen or has red streaks, or if you have a fever. Symptoms The common signs of athlete s foot include itching, stinging, and burning between the toes. This can spread to the soles of the feet. Athlete s foot can also be accompanied by a foul smell. Additional signs include: Cracked or peeling skin Scaly skin Red, inflamed skin Blisters that may ooze or crust over Thick, discolored toenails You should see your doctor if these symptoms do not improve in 2-4 weeks with home treatments. You should see your doctor sooner if you have diabetes. Common foot problems are more likely to become serious for people with diabetes. Diagnosis Your doctor can usually diagnose athlete s foot by looking at the skin. Other conditions can cause symptoms similar to those of athlete s foot such as dermatitis and psoriasis. Your doctor may take samples of the skin for further testing. The sample is first sent to the lab where a pathologist will examine it under the microscope. If needed, your doctor will order a culture test. In the culture test, the pathologist tries to grow the germs from the sample taken from your foot in a special dish to see what types of germs are growing. 3

4 Treatment There are many over-the-counter anti-fungal medications that can treat mild athlete s foot infections. Anti-fungal medications come in ointment, lotion, powder, or spray. Over the counter-medications include: Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF ) Miconazole (Desenex, Zeasorb, others) Tolnaftate (Tinactin, Ting, others) If you have a severe case of athlete s foot or if over-thecounter medications do not help, you may need a prescription. There are topical and oral prescription medications to treat fungal infections. Your doctor may also recommend dressings or soaking your infected foot as a part of the treatment. Athlete s foot may come back after treatment. Prevention There are some simple actions that you can take to prevent athlete s foot. If you have athlete s foot, these actions can also be used to lessen symptoms. The best way to prevent athlete s foot is to keep your feet dry. Don t let your feet stay wet for too long. The fungus that causes athlete s foot grows in warm, moist places. Natural materials like cotton or wool can help keep your feet dry. Wear socks made from these materials. You should also wear shoes that allow for good air flow. Avoid shoes that are made from plastic, vinyl, or rubber. If your feet sweat a lot or if your feet get wet, you should change your socks frequently. You should also avoid wearing the same shoes all of the time. This lets your shoes air out and dry before you wear them again. 4

5 Wearing shower shoes in damp public areas like pools and public showers can also help prevent athlete s foot. You can also use anti-fungal powder on your feet daily to prevent athlete s foot. The powder will also help keep your feet dry. You should never share shoes with another person. Sharing shoes can spread athlete s foot. Summary Athlete s foot is a skin infection of the foot caused by fungus. It usually begins between the toes or on the bottom of the foot. However, it can spread to other parts of the body. The fungus that causes athlete s foot grows in warm, moist areas. It can be passed from person-to-person with direct contact. It can also be passed through contact with shoes, socks, and shower or pool surfaces. Athlete s foot is the most common type of fungal infection. About 70-80% of the world s population will have athlete s foot at some point in their life. However, it is usually not dangerous and is easily treated. Treatments include over-the-counter antifungal creams for most cases and prescription medicines for more serious infections. To prevent athlete s foot Wash your feet every day Dry your feet well, especially between your toes Wear clean socks Don't walk barefoot in public areas Wear flip-flops in locker room showers 5

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