Athlete's Foot

Usually, people associate the term athlete's foot (scientific name tinea pedis) with nearly all skin diseases that cause inflammation in the sole of their foot as well as the skin between their toes. Generally, this condition results in red, scaly, raw-looking eruptions and sometimes it may even be weepy and accompany by oozing small blisters. Though called athlete's foot, this condition may affect athletes as well as non-athletes. Often, this condition is attributed to fungal infection, but many other causes can also result in athlete's foot. It is difficult to distinguish the reason for the disease at a cursory glance, and a detailed examination is needed to ascertain the cause.

Tinea pedis is the medical name of athlete's foot, which is attributed to various different types of fungi. You can come in contact with these fungi at various places, including swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms, nail salons, communal showers as well as from wearing infected clothing and socks. In addition, fungi can spread directly when one person comes in contact with another. It has been found that most people suffering from athlete's foot usually develop this disease by walking over a place which has already been walked upon by an affected individual. This happens when a healthy person walks barefoot on the ground where another person suffering from the condition has treaded some time before. It has been also found that some individuals are naturally vulnerable to athlete's foot, while many others possess the aptitude to resist acquiring the infection. This condition also has a more colourful name - "jungle rot". This term is usually used by members of armed forces who are deployed in places having tropical climatic conditions.

Warm and damp conditions help fungi to thrive, thereby making the infections worse. Some people are of the view that athlete's foot was not as widespread as now before the prevalence of enclosed shoes. They argue that wearing shoes that are not enclosed reduces the risks of developing this condition. In current times, tinea pedis is very common and it has been found that roughly 70 per cent of people may acquire this condition at some or other stage in their life. When one is infected by the fungi responsible for athlete's foot, it does not necessarily offer any kind of opposition to succeeding infections.

The condition athlete's feet (tinea pedis) is attributed to a fungal infection. After infected the human feet, the fungi thrive on the skin, especially on the proteins present in the skin and called keratin. These fungi flourish in places having hot and, thanks to travelers, tropical climatic conditions and have recently been carried to Europe as well as North America. These fungi especially flourishes when one is wearing enclosed shoes - footwear that are tight and do now allow room for the feet to breathe, thereby causing athlete's foot. When people walk barefoot, the fungal infection may spread from one person to another, especially in places that are moist and warm. Such places may include swimming pools and locker rooms in gyms. If you have blisters or cuts on your feet it will make it all the more easy for the fungi to infect the areas.

The most widespread type of athlete's foot is known as interdigital athlete's foot, which generally occurs between the fourth and fifth (smallest) toes. Usually, both interdigital athlete's foot and moccasin-type athlete's foot are attributed to the fungus called T. rubrum. On the other hand, blistered or vesicular athlete's foot is said to be the result of an allergic reaction to fungi. As is suggested by the name of this type of athlete's foot, vesicular athlete's foot causes formation of blisters on the affected skin areas. Another type of athlete's foot, known as ulcerative tinea pedis, develops in severe cases and this may have an effect on large areas of the skin. In such cases, generally a secondary bacterial infection develops over the fungal infection that causes tinea pedis.

Symptoms of athlete's foot

Generally, athlete's foot develops between the third and the fourth toes or the fourth and the fifth (which is the smallest) toes. When athlete's foot develops, it causes the skin to crack, make the toes itchy, white and soggy and results in scaling of the skin in the affected area. In some cases, the infection can spread from the toes to the feet's soles. The situation worsens when the feet are sweaty and due to tight socks that retains moisture on the feet. In case there is a bacterial infection on athlete's foot, it will make the skin smell and ooze.

However, when one develops athlete's foot of moccasin type, it does not result in inflammation or itching. On the other hand, the entire heel and sole of the foot become dehydrated. Gradually, they turn out to be flaky and white, loose scales appear on the skin. These scales resemble patterns similar to that of moccasin. Occasionally, athlete's foot, which is cause due to fungal contagion, may also infect the toenails. When the condition worsens to this stage, it becomes more difficult to cure athlete's foot.

People enduring blistered or vesicular athlete's foot usually suffer from sore (blisters filled with fluids), which develop between the toes as well as on the sides and arch of the foot. Such blisters are attributed to allergies that develop in reaction to fungi that are responsible for athlete's foot.

The most widespread type of athlete's foot is known as interdigital tinea pedis and it is manifested in the form of maceration. When we talk about maceration in terms of athlete's foot we denote softer tissues attributed to soaking. In addition, interdigital tinea pedis also appears as scales on the skin in spaces between two toes. This type of athlete's foot may turn out to be ulcerative, especially when it develops a secondary bacterial infection. The symptoms related to this condition include formation of excruciating ulcers between the toes. Such types of ulcers usually do not heal easily and takes a very long time to cure.

Often, tinea pedis can cause leg or foot infections, a condition known as cellulitis. This condition is especially worrisome for people who are enduring chronic vascular disease or are diabetic.

Treatment options

There are a number of means to treat athlete's foot (tinea pedis). For instance, you may topically apply anti-fungal creams available with pharmacies or check with a doctor who will recommend you prescription drugs. The topical creams are meant to be applied directly to the affected area on the feet, especially the skin. Topical creams are available in a variety of brands and types, which include clotrimazole, miconazole, terbinafine, ketoconazole and econazole. Generally, these are creams, but also available in the form of powders, liquids and sprays. All these treatments are effective in getting rid of different types of fungal skin infections. However, they are equally good and it is difficult to identify which one is better. It is advisable that you should use econazole, clotrimazole or miconazole for children. Aside from these medications, there are other options too and they include tolnaftate or undecenoic acid. All these are only available as non-prescription drugs.

These anti-fungal creams should be applied to the affected skin areas for the entire prescribed period. However, this differs from one treatment to another. Therefore, it is essential to read the instructions on the product labels very carefully. In fact, you may find the rash disappearing quite early after the commencement of the treatment, but you should continue applying the creams for at least a couple of weeks even after the rash has vanished. This is necessary for complete removal of the fungi from your skin to ensure that the rash does not return.

If your skin becomes inflamed due to fungal infection, it is very likely that your doctor will prescribe an anti-fungal cream together with a gentle steroid cream. Generally, this should not be used for more than a week. Later, it may be necessary only to use the anti-fungal cream for some more time. Applying the steroid cream helps to ease inflammation and it may also alleviate itching and redness of the skin in a very short time. Nevertheless, steroid is not helpful in eliminating the fungi. Hence, it is never advisable to use a steroid cream alone, but always with an anti-fungal cream to cure athlete's foot.

If you are an adult, your doctor may sometimes prescribe an anti-fungal tablet. The anti-fungal tablet is especially helpful when the infection does not go away even after using anti-fungal cream. The anti-fungal tablet may also be prescribed to people who might be suffering from severe cases of infection. Sometimes, anti-fungal tablets may also be necessary if infection develops in various areas on the skin, besides the toes. Anti-fungal tablets prescribed to treat such infections include itraconazole, griseofulvin and terbinafine.