Dr. Faozat Aragbaye
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a contagious skin infection that affects the skin of the feet. It can also spread to toenails and the hands, the fungal infection is called athlete’s foot because it’s commonly seen in athletes.
The athlete’s foot fungus, Trichophyton, is a dematophyte, related to other fungi that cause in infection in human skin, hair and nails. These fungi exists harmlessly on human skin. As long as the skin is dry and clean, their reproduction is limited. However, under damp and warm conditions, they multiply rapidly.
Factors that increase risk of contacting athlete’s foot include:
v walking barefooted in public places, especially swimming pool, saunas, communal baths and showers.
v sharing socks, shoes or towels with an infected person
v wearing tight, closed-toe shoes
v keeping feet wet for too long periods of time
v having sweaty feet
v having a minor skin or nail injury on the foot
being a man
v people with weakened immune system
There are many possible symptoms of athlete’s foot, which include:
v itching, stinging and burning between the toes or on soles of the feet
v blisters on the feet with itching
v cracking and peeling of skin on the feet, most commonly between toes and on the soles
v dry skin on the soles or sides of the feet
v raw skin on the feet especially between toes
v discoloured, thick, and crumby toenails
v toenails that pull away from the nail bed
Athlete’s foot can normally be diagnosed by observing the hallmark signs and symptoms. The most common test is known as skin lesion potassium hydroxide. In this test scrapes of infected tissue is placed in potassium hydroxide solution and fungal cells are viewed under the microscope.
In the majority of cases, athlete’s foot symptoms are mild and the patient does not need to see a doctor OTC medications can be bought at pharmacies which are effective in clearing up the infection.
In severe cases, a doctor may prescribe a more powerful antifungal medication, which is usually swallowed.
These tips can help in avoiding athlete’s foot or ease the symptoms if infection occurs:
Keep the feet dry especially between the toes. Go barefoot at home to let the feet air out as much as possible. Dry between the toes after bath or shower
Change socks regularly. For those who have sweaty feet, change socks twice a day
Wear light, well ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber
Alternate pairs of shoes. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes everyday so that the shoes there would be time for shoes to dry after each use
Protect the feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and locker rooms
Treat the feet. Use powder, preferably antifungal, on the feet daily
Don’t share shoes. Sharing risks spreading a fungal infection.
Although athlete’s foot symptoms are mostly mild, and complications are rare, experts say it is best to treat it promptly. Early treatment significantly reduces the risk of complications.
The following complications may occur:
Fungal nail infection
Secondary bacterial infection
Infected lymph system