Do you have extreme itchiness over both feet? Do you walk barefoot in your gym or school’s locker room. Are you always scrambling for time and don’t bother to dry your feet? If you answered yes, then you are susceptible to contracting a fungal infection called athlete’s foot.
What exactly is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is the most common fungal disease. In the field of medicine, it is better known as tinea pedis. Extremely itchy and red, scaly skin with peeling is the most common complaint of people with tinea pedis. You can look for skin changes in any of these three most common areas:
- arch and side of the feet
- in between the spaces of the toes (space between the 4th and little toe is the most common site)
- white discoloration of the nails (signifying that nails are also infected by fungus)
Skin problems can occur variably in people. Some may experience skin changes in other areas aside from the above mentioned. However, a common endpoint for all these skin lesions is a silvery scale that wraps the sides and soles of the feet. This is often referred to as the “sandal” appearance that is almost exclusively found with athlete's foot.
What causes athlete’s foot?
Fungus is an opportunistic organism that loves moist environment. Once an area remains damp over prolonged periods, the fungus will capitalize on this environment and multiply. Damp or sweaty skin is a good medium for fungal reproduction. Some of the risk factors for having fungal infection in the feet are:
- Men and athletes
Men and athletes are susceptible because of excessive sweating in the feet. This population often wears socks and closed shoes that cultivate a good environment for fungus to thrive on. Women sweat less than men even and are less prone for this infection.
- Living in a tropical climate
A hot, humid climate promotes excessive sweating all over the body. This makes one at risk for not only developing fungal infection in the feet but also in other parts of the body such as the groin area.
- Genetic factor
Some studies show that athlete’s foot can be hereditary. Absence of CARD9 (caspase recruitment domain–containing protein 9) gene makes a person more susceptible to fungal infections.
- Poor foot hygiene
Walking barefoot in the locker room can lead to fungal infection because moist areas favor the growth of fungus. Sharing footwear and socks can also result in athlete’s foot. Not drying the foot and toes before wearing socks and shoes will also create a favorable environment for fungal replication.
- Topical antifungal cream
Over-the-counter antifungals drill into the cells of fungus to cause destruction. Clean hands should be used during application. A good alternative is to use cotton buds for application. Covering about a centimeter outside the border of lesions or “sandal” is a good practice to ensure treatment of small lesions. Make sure to wash your hands thoroughly after topical application to prevent spread of infection to other parts of the body. The treatment for fungal infections should be at least 2 weeks.
- Oral antifungal medicines
Oral antifungals are reserved for widespread fungal infections due to its side effects. The duration of treatment ranges from 1 to 4 weeks depending on the medicine used. Oral treatment is very effective for treating lesions that are not seen by the naked eye.
- Proper foot hygiene
- Practice drying feet well during and after treatment. Make sure to dry the spaces in between the toes. Be careful not to vigorously rub the feet though as doing so might add wounds over the lesion.
- Use an antiperspirant powder or spray to avoid having moist feet. Make sure to check the label because some powders only have deodorant properties that does not provide much help in keeping the feet dry.
- Avoid wearing thick socks during treatment to allow sweat to evaporate faster. Trapped sweat is a very good medium for growth of fungus.
- Separate wounds between toes with a cotton in the evening for faster healing.
- Do not share footwear or socks. Period.
- Aluminum salt solution
Aluminum salts clog the sweat glands to prevent excessive perspiration. A part is mixed with 20 parts water to make a solution. The solution should be applied overnight as to take advantage of reduced sweat production. Continue applying this home remedy until the lesions subside.