Dermatology
Athlete’s Foot
 

Introduction:

Athlete's foot is a skin rash that usually begins between the toes. It commonly occurs in athletes, or people whose feet have become very sweaty while confined within tight-fitting shoes. It is a fungal infection that can spread to other parts of the body. The signs and symptoms of include a scaly rash between the toes, as well as itching and tingling. Athlete’s foot is contagious, and can spread through contaminated floors, towels or clothes. It can be treated by using anti-fungal medications. And it can be prevented by drying the feet after washing them, and before putting on shoes.

Definition:
Athlete’s foot is a contagious rash that usually occurs in the foot. Caused by a fungal infection, athlete’s foot is common among male adolescents and adults, as well as athletes. A rash occurs in warm, wet areas. The infected person often suffers from other infections affecting their palms, nails and hip.

Names of the disease:
Athlete’s foot, tinea pedis

Cause:
The feet of athletes, or those putting on tight-fitting socks or shoes, create an optimal environment for the growth of fungi; since fungi grow on warm, wet areas. Such fungi cause a rash occurring between the toes, which may spread to the foot palm (sole).

Risk factors:
  • Sharing shoes or socks with infected persons; 
  • Putting on tight-fitting shoes for a long time; 
  • Walking barefoot at public places, especially public pools, steam-baths, and lockers rooms.

Symptoms:
  • Itching and burning between the toes;
  • Redness and scaliness of the skin between the toes;
  • Foul odor coming from the foot;
  • A scaly rash on the sole;
  • Blisters and ulcers (in acute infections).

When to see a doctor?
  • Onset or persistence of the above-mentioned signs and symptoms;
  • Redness and pain in the foot.

Complications:
  • Spreading of the infection to the hands, nails and other parts of the body;
  • Bacterial infection.

Diagnosis:
  • Clinical examination, based on observation of the symptoms; 
  • Medical history;
  • Other tests, including taking and examining a sample from the infected area.

Treatment:
Use anti-fungal creams, lotions or powders; if the symptoms persist, anti-fungal oral medications may be prescribed.

Prevention:
  • Wash your feet with soap, especially between your toes;
  • Dry your feet after wash, especially between your toes;
  • Trim your toenails, and keep them clean;
  • Avoid walking barefoot at lockers rooms or public pools;
  • Choose socks made of natural materials (such as wool and cotton), and make sure to change them regularly;
  • Leave your shoes in the open air for one complete day before reusing them;
  • Wear comfortable, well-ventilated shoes;
  • Make sure that your feet are dry before putting on the socks and shoes;
  • Don’t share shoes.

Tips for patients with athlete’s foot:
  • Keep your feet clean, and dry them after wash, especially between toes; 
  • Avoid public swimming pools and foot-soaking tubs;
  • Use a separate towel for the feet, and wash it regularly;
  • Wear a clean pair of socks everyday (cotton socks are recommended);
  • Avoid scratching the infected skin, since the infection may spread to other parts of the body;
  • Avoid walking barefoot in some places like lockers rooms and public pools (using well-ventilated sandals is advisable);
  • Don’t share towels, socks or shoes with others;
  • Avoid wearing the same shoes for more than two days in a row;
  • Avoid shoes that cause the feet to get wet or warm.

FAQ:
Are anti-fungal medications safe for pregnant and breastfeeding women?
Pregnant and breastfeeding women should use topic anti-fungal medications only.

Myths & Realities: 
Athlete’s foot affects the feet only.
Reality: Athlete's foot can affect other parts of the body, if not treated. The infection can spread, through hands, from the feet to other parts of the body.
Athlete's foot patient should stop using medications when the symptoms disappear.​
Reality: The patient should continue to use the medications for as long as prescribed by the doctor, to avoid re-infection.


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