What is Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is a skin disease caused by a fungus, usually occurring between the toes. The fungus most commonly attacks the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungus growth. Not all fungus conditions are athlete's foot. Other conditions, such as disturbances of the sweat mechanism, reaction to dyes or adhesives in shoes, eczema, and psoriasis, may mimic athlete's foot.
The warmth and dampness of areas around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms are also breeding grounds for fungi. Because the infection was common among athletes who used these facilities frequently, the term "athlete's foot" became popular.
Increased perspiration and sweaty feet can also cause fungal problems of the lower extremities. Prescription medication and preventative measures (see Prevention below) can be very effective at treating this problem. It is very important to talk to Dr. Davis if you have profusely sweaty feet - this may be a sign of other medical issues that may need to be addressed.
The signs of athlete's foot, singly or combined, include the following:
Itching and burning, which may increase as the infection spreads
Blisters, which often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling.
Athlete's foot may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. 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. The organisms causing athlete's foot may persist for long periods. Consequently, the infection may be spread by contaminated bed sheets or clothing to other parts of the body.
When to Visit Dr. Davis
If an apparent fungus condition does not respond to proper foot hygiene or there is no improvement within two weeks with over the counter topicals, consult Dr. Davis.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Dr. Davis will determine if a fungus is the cause of the problem. If it is, a specific treatment plan, including the prescription of antifungal medication, applied topically or taken by mouth, will usually be suggested. Such a treatment appears to provide better resolution of the problem when the patient observes the course of treatment prescribed by a physician; if it's shortened, failure of the treatment is common.
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. If the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics that are effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria, such as penicillin, may be prescribed.
It is important to keep the feet dry by dusting foot powder in shoes and hose. The feet should be bathed frequently and all areas around the toes dried thoroughly.
It is not easy to prevent athlete's foot because it is usually contracted in dressing rooms, showers, and swimming pool locker rooms where bare feet come in contact with the fungus. However, you can do much to prevent infection by practicing good foot hygiene:
Wash feet daily with soap and water; dry carefully, especially between the toes
Avoid walking barefoot; use shower shoes
Reduce perspiration by using talcum powder
Wear light and airy shoes. It is recommended that you several pairs so they can be rotated every two to three days.
Spray out shoes at the end of the day with Lysol and let them dry out for two to three days before use.
Change shoes and hose regularly to decrease moisture
Wear socks that keep your feet dry, and change them frequently if you perspire heavily