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Athlete's Foot - Definition, Causes, Symptoms and Treatment


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Athletes foot is an infection of the the skin of the foot. Athlete foot is caused by the ringworm fungus. The fungus that causes Athlete foot can be found on floors and in socks and clothing. The fungus most commonly attacks the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungus growth. The fungus can be spread from person to person by contact with these objects. Anthropophillic dermatophytes are restricted to human hosts and produce a mild, chronic inflammation. Zoophilic organisms are found primarily in animals and cause marked inflammatory reactions in humans who have contact with infected cats, dogs, cattle, horses, birds, or other animals. Athlete's foot usually affects the spaces between your toes, but it can spread to your toenails and the soles and sides of your feet. People with sweaty or damp feet are at risk. Walking barefoot where others also walk barefoot is one way the fungus can get on your feet in the first place. 

Athlete's foot is contagious, and can be passed through direct contact, or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces. Athlete's foot may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. The signs of athlete's foot, singly or combined, are dry skin, itching, scaling, inflammation, and blisters. Blisters often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling. It can be spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere. This is especially likely to occur in the elderly, individuals with diabetes, chronic leg swelling, or who have had veins removed, and patients with impaired immune systems. Treatment for athlete's foot is usually simple, uncomplicated, and usually carried out at home. Topical antifungal preparations should be effective in treating dry and scaly areas.

Causes of Athletes foot

Athlete's foot is a layman's description of a skin fungal infection. It may be associated with several different fungi, including yeasts. The fungi love warm, moist places with the result they are primarily a problem for people who wear tight-fitting trainers or don't dry their feet properly. The most common fungi causing tinea pedis are Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes. Dermatophytes may be spread from other humans, animals or may come from the soil. Athlete's foot is contagious, and can be passed through direct contact, or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.

Common causes and risk factors of Athletes foot:

  • Ringworm fungus.
  • People who are forced to wear tight-fitting rubber footwear because of their job.
  • Athletes.
  • Contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.
  • People with excessively sweaty feet are more prone to this condition.

Signs and Symptoms of Athletes foot

Athlete's foot causes a flaky, sometimes itchy, and sometimes red rash between the toes and over the rest of the nearby foot. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling. When the skin is injured by the fungus, bacteria can also invade the skin. These bacteria can cause a bad smell. In most people it is confined to the spaces between the toes, but it spreads and affects more of the foot occasionally. The infection can be spread to other areas of the body, such as the armpits, knees, elbows, and the groin, and usually is called by a different name once it spreads.

Sign and symptoms may include the following :

  • Cracking of the skin.
  • Pain and swelling.
  • Itching and burning on the soles of your feet.
  • Itchy blisters.
  • Excessive dryness of the skin on the bottoms or sides of the feet.

Treatment for Athletes foot

Athlete's foot can be treated locally with antifungal creams, sprays, liquids and powders that are available from pharmacists without a prescription. Fungicidal and fungistatic chemicals, used for athlete's foot treatment, frequently fail to contact the fungi in the horny layers of the skin. Topical or oral antifungal drugs are prescribed with growing frequency. In mild cases of the infection it is important to keep the feet dry by dusting foot powder in shoes and hose. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection.

Treatment may include:

  • Powders, especially medicated powders (such as with miconazole or tolnaftate), can help keep your feet dry.
  • The second part of treatment is the use of antifungal creams.
  • Many medications are available including miconazole, clotrimazole, etc.
  • Antibiotics may be necessary to treat secondary bacterial infections that occur in addition to the fungus.
  • Broad spectrum antifungal creams and solutions may also be useful.