Information on Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is an extremely uncomfortable and sometimes difficult to treat condition, characterized by itching, burning, blistering, and cracking of the skin of the foot. Athlete's foot is an easily spread condition that affects the lives of nearly 15% of the global population. 1

There are a variety of causes for the infections that fall into the athlete's foot category. The itchy, burning, rash-like symptoms can be triggered by yeasts, molds, or fungus that can colonize the skin on the foot if provided with the right environment. The most common athlete's foot sufferers are adult males, but the condition can be contracted by anyone. Once you have contracted athlete's foot, it actually increases your likelihood of future foot infections.

What is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot is a term referring to a common group of foot infections and their accompanying symptoms. Medically, athlete's foot is referred to as tinea pedis. It is extremely uncomfortable and often a difficult condition to cure permanently.

Athlete's foot is easily spread through contact with infected surfaces including floors, towels, or clothing. Given the right environment, well established fungal infections can be very persistent and hard to get rid of.

Men and women of all ages are at risk for athlete's foot. One of the most common ways that foot infections are transmitted is in gyms and public showers. While these infections most often originate in the foot, they are not limited to the lower extremities, and can easily be spread to other parts of the body by scratching or improper hygiene. More severe infections can spread to the nails, hand and groin areas, and also cause an allergic blistering response in the hands, arms, or chest. Careful attention to proper foot care and hygiene, and awareness of athlete's foot symptoms is one of the best ways to prevent infections and catch them before they reach advanced stages

Approximately 1 in 5 adults suffers from athlete's foot. Men are more likely to contract foot infections than women, and often it depends on choice of footwear. Ensuring that your feet get enough airflow and light throughout the day is very important. Spending time barefoot (in a safe and hygienic environment) may significantly reduce risks of developing and athlete's foot infection. 2

Athlete's Foot Symptoms

Symptoms vary from person to person based on the specific cause and severity of the infection. The most commonly experienced symptoms are redness, flaking and cracking of the skin on the foot, coupled with uncomfortable itching and burning sensations. Additionally, more advanced fungal infections may be accompanied by an offensive odor.

There are three different kinds of athlete's foot infections. The most common is inter-digital, meaning it occurs between the toes. Moccasin-type infections are a more chronic variety which are difficult to get rid of. They affect the heel and sole of the feet and often spread to the toenails as well. A vesicular infection is the the least common variety and also probably the most painful. It is characterized by sudden eruptions of fluid-filled blisters, and can affect all areas of the foot. Vesicular blistering athlete's foot may also be accompanied by various other forms of foot infection.

Being aware of how your athlete's foot develops and progresses is an important key to finding a solution for it. The kind of athlete's foot you suffer from will then determine the effectiveness of various available treatments. 3

What are the Causes and Characteristics of Athlete's Foot?

The majority of athlete's foot infections are caused by two different varieties of fungus, Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Trichophyton rubrum. Fungus thrives in warm, dark, moist environments. If you regularly wear tight fitting shoes and damp or sweaty socks, this will increase your risk of contracting athlete's foot. Scratching at your infection also causes infected skin cells and fungus spores to spread to your environment, increasing your risk of spreading the infection.

Here is a list of the most common ways that athlete's foot infections are spread:

  • 1. Public Showers and Locker rooms
  • 2. Sharing Shoes and Socks
  • 3. Public Pools
  • 4. Touching and Scratching

How to Prevent Athlete's Foot?

Because of the high degree of contagiousness, there is no single, foolproof way to prevent athlete's foot. If it is a serious recurring issue, your dermatologist may be able to identify a pattern of recurring infection along with the associated cause.

The most effective way to prevent athlete's foot is to keep your feet clean and dry as much as possible. If sweaty feet are a problem, wear sandals or flip-flops wherever possible. Alternatively, wear well ventilated shoes that allow your feet to breathe and change your socks twice a day. ALWAYS wear sandals or flip-flops in public showers and pools.

In the event that you do contract a serious fungal foot infection, there are many treatments available, both over the counter and by prescription. Some pharmaceutical anti-fungal treatments are known to cause serious and uncomfortable side-effects, so it is always good to look for a risk-free all-natural alternative.

Athlete's foot is not a quick fix condition. It is not a condition that can, or should, be dealt with in a few treatments then forgotten. Attempts to do so will often result in an unsatisfying experience or recurring infections. For real and effective athlete's foot relief, be sure to choose the best treatment you can find and stick with it until your infection has completely cleared.


References:

1 - Cochrane Skin group: Fungal Infections of the Skin of the Foot

2 - American Podiatric Medical Association: Foot Health

3 - NHS: Treating Athlete's Foot