Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection. It can lead to intense itching, cracked, blistered or peeling areas of skin, redness and scaling. Moist, waterlogged skin is prone to it, as is flaky skin around the heels or elsewhere on the foot.
What causes it?
It is caused by a number of fungal species and can be picked up anywhere. Communal areas such as pools, showers and changing rooms, or anywhere where you may walk around barefooted are more likely to be sources of cross infection.
Once contaminated, the warm, dark and sweaty environment of feet cramped in shoes or trainers provides the ideal breeding ground for the fungus. Athlete’s foot also occurs in dry, flaky areas. It is common in summer sandal-wearers when the sun dries the skin. Without the natural protective oils, frictional abrasion from sandals makes feet more prone to infection.
Is it serious?
Fungal infections are highly contagious and can spread to anywhere on your skin – to your scalp, hands and groin, particularly if you use the same towel for your feet as for the rest of your body. If left untreated, the fungus can spread to the toe nails, causing thickening and yellowing of the nail.
The mistake most people make is to stop the hygiene regime or medication when the symptoms go. The fungus can lie dormant and may re-appear. Certain products require continued treatment for several weeks. Always follow the instructions and be alert to symptoms, so that you can deal with any problems straight away. Anti-fungal powder should primarily be used for dusting inside footwear, to help prevent re-infection.
What can a podiatrist do?
A podiatrist will help you pinpoint the best treatment, reducing discomfort and improving the appearance of the affected area.
They can also help if the fungal infection has spread to the nails, by cutting the nail back and reducing the thickness. Fungal nail infections do not respond to topical treatments, but do respond well to Photodynamic Antimicrobial Therapy (PACT). Ask us more about it or visit our Fungal Nail page.
If extremely severe, you may need oral medication (tablets), this does have side effects. Chat with us or visit your GP to find out more.
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