What Is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is the common term used to describe the skin infection caused by the fungus Trichophyton. The fungus can only survive in warm, moist environments and typically grows best on the feet of persons wearing damp socks, non-ventilated shoes, and those that wear tight shoes allowing a nice breeding ground between the toes.
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin that is most commonly caused by the fungus Trichophyton rubrum, one of four dermatophytes known to cause the infection.
“The fungus that causes Athlete’s foot is easily transmitted through skin fragments and other items left behind by its carrier.”
Common damp surfaces such as shower floors, bed linens, socks, shoes, and swimming pool areas provide the ideal environment the fungi need to attach itself to other unsuspecting surfaces and victims.
What are the Complications of Athlete’s Foot?
Not only does athlete’s foot cause unbearable pain and agony from the itching and burning, but it can also cause many complications (some of which are severe and dangerous):
1. Bacterial Skin Infections
If left untreated, Tinea pedis can lead to secondary bacterial infections of the foot or leg (cellulitis); which could potentially be dangerous for people with diabetes, chronic vascular diseases, or impaired immune systems.
2. Allergic Reaction
Most of the person experience an allergic reaction to the fungus that causes athlete’s foot. This allergic reaction, called a dermatophytid or id reaction. It can causes an eruption of blisters on the fingers, palms of the hands, and on the body trunk area and extremities. Other people experience allergic reactions or systemic side effects caused by strong medications used to fight off the fungal infection.
People with a history of athlete’s foot are more susceptible to recurrences and other complications. So, they must practice good hygiene with their feet to prevent future recurrences.
4. Contagious to Self and Others
The contagious fungus that causes athlete’s foot can easily spread to other parts of the body or to someone else. Here are the most commonly affected areas:
- Groin area (Tinea cruris or jock itch)
- Toenails and Fingernails (Tinea unguium or onychomycosis)
- Scalp (Tinea capitis)
- Body Trunk and Extremities (Tinea corporis)
- Hands (Tinea manuum)
- Face (Tinea faciale)
- Beard Area and Neck (Tinea barbae)
What are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?
If you think you may have athlete’s foot, then you must understand the symptoms. The symptoms of the condition can be difficult to pinpoint since they vary from person to person. When some people acquire the condition, they suffer from severe symptoms that can cause major irritation.
Other people that acquire an athlete’s foot may find that they have none of the symptoms whatsoever.
“The most common symptoms that an athlete’s foot sufferer will experience are peeling, scaling, and cracking of the feet.”
Athlete’s foot may also cause redness and blisters on the feet as well as a softening and breaking down of the skin.
When most people think of an athlete’s foot, they think of itchy, burning skin that is cracking and peeling. And, although most experience this most commonly when diagnosed with athlete’s foot, the irritating skin condition presents itself in four very distinct forms if left untreated. The stages experienced by carriers of the athlete’s foot skin infection include interdigital, inflammatory (vesicular), moccasin (hyperkeratotic), and ulcerative.
1. Interdigital Athlete’s Foot
If you are suffering from athlete’s foot, then odds are that this is what you are suffering from as it is the most common form of the condition. You can easily spot it as it most often occurs between the two smallest toes of the foot. This form of infection will often start with an area of skin that is soft, moist, and will have a pale white appearance.
The symptoms that this condition will cause include itching, burning, and sometimes a mild odor. The condition will generally get worse as time goes by. The skin between the toes will become scaly and will peel and crack. As things escalate, a bacterial infection may occur which causes a breakdown of the skin and a severe odor.
2. Inflammatory (Vesicular) Athlete’s Foot
Inflammatory athlete’s foot is most often experience in patients that allowed the milder interdigital athlete’s foot to go untreated. In an inflammatory athlete’s foot, carriers most often experience fluid-filled blisters that appear on between the toes and on the sole.
“Symptoms of an inflammatory athlete’s foot may also include itchy, painful skin that is inflamed and rash-like.”
This type usually begins with a large outbreak of fluid-filled areas forming under the skin. Blisters will develop on the skin usually starting on the instep. The infection will often occur repeatedly, sometimes even on the chest, arms, and fingers. The skin may scale between eruptions. This condition may also be accompanied by a bacterial infection.
Athlete’s foot is not to be confused with pitted keratolysis, a condition that offers some of the same symptoms. See a doctor if you fear you may have this condition.
3. Moccasin Foot (Hyperkeratotic)
The symptoms of the moccasin foot are caused by the Trichophyton rubrum dermatophyte and can best be described as a blistering redness that covers the sides, heel, and/or underneath the foot.
“Patients with the moccasin foot, as it is commonly called, describe the skin as being silvery, thick, and scaly with a pink or red tone on the sole.”
This is a long-lasting, chronic infection that can be difficult to get rid of. It begins with dryness, minor irritation, itching, burning, and scaling of the skin. As the condition progresses, you will find that the burning, cracking skin condition will spread even to the heel of the foot.
In the severest of conditions, the toenails can become brittle, and may even crumble and fall out. This type of athlete’s foot can even spread to the hands. Usually, only one hand will become infected, along with the feet.
4. Ulcerative Athlete’s Foot
Ulcerative athlete’s foot is most often caused by the Trichophyton mentagrophytes dermatophyte and is denoted by painful ulcers that form between the toes and on the bottom of the foot. The open, ulcerated skin often leads to secondary bacterial infections in its carriers.
Aside from discomfort, the longer the skin infection caused by Athlete’s foot is left untreated, the more likely blisters, ulcers, large cracks, peeling, and contamination will occur. Early treatment of athlete’s foot is essential in the prevention of its spread and of the long term effects the infection can cause.
How Do You Prevent Athlete’s Foot?
People infected with the fungus that causes athlete’s foot will always be susceptible to recurrent infections. However, if they avoid, prevent, or minimize the factors that cause athlete’s foot to occur. They can stop or significantly reduce the frequency of recurrences. Here are a few common-sense ways to prevent athlete’s foot:
- Clean your feet daily. Wash your feet, especially in between your toes, several times per day with non-antibacterial soap and water.
- Keep your feet dry. Dry your feet after bathing or swimming and walk barefoot at home as much as possible to keep your feet dry (especially during the night).
- Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid wearing tight-fitting or synthetic footwear that restricts airflow to the feet.
- Wear absorbent socks. Wear socks made of absorbent fibers, preferably cotton, and wash them in hot water with bleach.
- Protect your feet in public. Wear shower shoes instead of walking barefoot around public showers, locker rooms, or swimming pools.
- Change socks or stockings daily. Change your socks or stockings several times per day if they get damp or you sweat a lot.
- Spray your shoes with a disinfectant. Spray a disinfectant in your shoes and let them dry in the sun to kill the dermatophytes.
- Don’t share bathing items or footwear. Never share shoes, socks or stockings, towels, or washcloths with anyone else.
- Use antifungal powder. Sprinkle antifungal powder in your shoes when you wake up in the morning and before you go to sleep at night.