What causes athletes foot and how to get rid of it?
Athletes foot is an infection usually caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes, which live in and feed from dead skin. These naturally live on your skin, but in certain conditions they multiply, leading to infection. The condition is commonly referred to as athlete’s foot, because the fungi thrive in warm and humid places, such as at swimming pools or in communal changing rooms. This environment is recreated when sweaty feet are in enclosed footwear, allowing the fungi to proliferate. However, the fungi can also infect dry skin, multiplying in the small cracks or fissures which develop when the skin is stripped of its natural oils.
Athletes foot symptoms
Athlete’s foot can be experienced differently, depending on factors such as its cause and the length of time the infection has been present. Some of the common symptoms that patients may experience include:
- White, soggy skin in between your toes, which may tear to produce fissures.
- A red, raw rash of the skin, which may weep or produce blisters.
- Flaky, scaly or cracked dry skin, sometimes thickened to the sole of the foot-this may have been present for some time and shown little improvement with the use of moisturising creams.
- Symptoms may be accompanied by intense itching, burning and stinging, although, as many patients do not experience this symptom, they may initially be unaware of the infection.
Spread of Infection
Fungal infections can spread to the skin of any area of your body. If left untreated, they may also lead to a fungal nail infection (known as onychomycosis) which causes discolouration and thickening of the nail. These are much harder to treat, and can lead to permanent damage to the nail bed, changing the shape of the nail too.
What can I do to treat nail fungal?
Don’t scratch, as this will further irritate the skin and increase your own discomfort. Scratching also releases dead skin cells carrying the fungus which can start the cycle all over again, spreading your infection to other parts of your body, including your hands.
Topical Medication for Athletes Foot
The use of a one-off product, such as Lamisil Once®, will kick-start the treatment process. This creates an invisible film over the feet, allowing the active ingredient to continuously fight the fungal infection, leading to good results in the shortest possible time frame. Additionally, your Podiatrist will recommend an appropriate medicated spray, cream or powder, based on the moisture level of your feet, which should be used according to manufacturer recommendations. As your home environment is likely to be contaminated by the fungi which caused your infection, this will not only continue your treatment but ensure that your feet do not become re-infected while they are still vulnerable.
When bathing or washing, pay special attention to your feet, and use an antimicrobial cleansing product daily. After washing, dry your feet fully, including in between your toes. Use a separate towel for your feet, and wash towels and bath or shower mats frequently, as they can harbour fungus and bacteria. Keep them for your sole use, to avoid spreading the infection to others. If your toes are tight together, either due to your footwear or the shape of your foot, an ideal environment for fungal spores and other organisms is created. In these cases, drying in between the toes may be supplemented by the application of surgical spirit with a cotton wool bud once daily.
Socks must be changed daily – and additionally during the day if you experience a high level of perspiration. Wool blend socks will encourage the wicking of moisture away from your feet
Shoes should be treated with medicated spray or powder to eradicate any fungus, which may re-infect the foot. Wear shoes which allow your foot and toes plenty of room to breathe. Avoid wearing the same shoes more than one day in a row, to allow them to fully dry and air between uses.
If you are struggling to fight off athletes foot or unsure how to get rid of it, our team of Podiatrists in Burnley and Padiham can help with treatment. Alternatively, you can ask our experts a question using our FREE online service.