Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a fungal infection of the skin that can lead to intense itching, cracked, blistered or peeling areas of skin, redness and scaling. It can occur on moist, waterlogged skin, usually between the fourth and fifth toes initially, or on dry, flaky skin around the heels or elsewhere on the foot.
How do you get athlete’s foot?
It is caused by fungi growing and multiplying on the skin. The fungi that cause the infection thrive in warm, dark and moist places like feet. You’re more likely to get athlete’s foot if you:
> don’t keep your feet clean and dry
> wear shoes that cause your feet to get hot and sweaty
> walk around barefoot in places where fungal infections can spread easily, such as communal showers, locker rooms and gyms
> share towels, socks and shoes with other people
> have a weakened immune system
> have certain other health conditions, such as diabetes
Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot:
It commonly affects the skin between the toes the skin around the rest of the feet. It is not always painful.
> Affected areas may be:
> dry, red, scaly and flaky
> white, soggy and cracked
> covered in small blisters
The infection can spread around your foot and to your toenails (see Fungal Nail Infections box). In severe cases, skin damaged by athlete’s foot can become infected with bacteria. This can lead to cellulitis, which causes the skin to become red, hot and swollen and can lead to other complications.
Athlete’s foot is unlikely to get better on its own. It can usually be treated using antifungal treatments without needing to see a GP. At David Brown Podiatry we sell a range of anti fungal products which work by stopping the fungus causing your athlete’s foot from growing. They come in creams, sprays, liquids and powders, and are used in the following way:
> wash and dry the affected skin before applying the treatment, and clean your hands afterwards
> treatment should be applied directly to the affected skin and surrounding area
> continue treatment after the rash has cleared including spraying in shoes every couple of weeks to reduce risk of reoccurrence
You can reduce your risk of developing athlete’s foot by:
> good foot hygiene
> drying your feet gently but thoroughly after washing them, particularly the areas between your toes
> wearing cotton socks and roomy shoes made of natural materials such as leather – this can allow your feet to “breathe”
> wear a fresh pair of socks, tights or stockings every day
> change your shoes every couple of days – this allows them to dry out between uses
> not walking around barefoot in public showers and locker rooms
> not sharing towels, socks and shoes with other people
> using talcum powder on your feet to stop them getting sweaty (but not in between toes)
> not using moisturiser between your toes, as this can help fungi multiply
Contact your GP if your athlete’s foot doesn’t start to improve after a week of treatment.