Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Is feet fungus infectious and how to prevent it?

The skin is prone to a number of fungal infections like ringworm, jock itch, yeast infections and athlete’s foot. 

Athlete’s foot, medically known as tinea pedis, is very common fungal infection which affects the foot. It causes itching, burning, redness peeling and at times sores and blisters.

The fungus which causes Athlete’s Foot thrives in a warm, moist environment like your shoes and socks, and the floors of public showers, swimming pools and locker rooms and in community baths. This fungal infection strikes more in warm, humid climates and during the summer months. While it primarily affects the feet, athlete’s foot can spread rapidly to other parts of the body typically the groin and other locations where the skin is kept warm and moist.

What is the cause of tinea pedis?
The cause of the condition is microscopic fungus which feeds on dead tissue of the toenails, hair and the outer layers of the skin. There are four known types of fungus which cause athlete’s foot, the most common being trichophyton rubrum.

What are the symptoms?
Symptoms vary from one person to the next, but some of the typical symptoms are:
  • Scaling, peeling and cracking or the skin on the feet
  • A formation of blisters, a redness of the skin or the skin becoming soft and breaking down
  • Burning or itching or both
Various types of tinea pedis
There are three different types of Athlete’s foot:
  • Interdigital known also as web infection which is the most common of the three types. It generally affects the space between the two smallest toes and can spread to the soles. It causes scaling, burning and itching.
  • Moccasin: This type of Athlete’s Foot infection generally begins with a relatively minor irritation accompanies by itching, scaly skin and dryness. As it advances the skin might thicken and crack. The infection can spread quickly to the soles and sides of the feet.
  • Vesicular is the least common kind of this skin infection. Usually the first signs are a sudden rash of fluid-filled blisters beneath the skin which most often appear on the underside of the foot but can also appear on the heel, on top of the foot or between the toes.
How do you diagnose Athlete’s Foot?
This condition can be diagnosed by visual inspection. But often scaly, itchy skin is diagnosed as athlete’s foot when in fact it turns out to be some other condition with many of the same symptoms. The most conclusive diagnosis, if there is an element of doubt, is for your doctor to scrape off skin samples and examine them under a microscope for fungal evidence.

What is the best treatment?
General treatment is with application of a topical antifungal medication twice daily and observing strict hygienic measures. Such medication could be in the form of OTC products like medicated talcum powder, ointment, cream or gel. Anti-itch creams should be avoided because they relieve the itch but fail to address the fungus. A prolonged infection might require oral antifungal medication in addition.

Is Athlete’s foot infectious?
Yes it is highly infectious and can spread rapidly with people who share the communal facilities like public showers, for example. It is also quickly transmittable if you share the same footwear and items like towels.

How do you prevent it?
The best way is to wear shoes that breathe, wear shower sandals in public showering rooms and wash your feet daily with soap and water and dry them thoroughly. You could also use a quality medicated foot powder designed to prevent athlete’s foot.

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