Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection. It can lead to intense itching, cracked, blistered or peeling areas of skin, redness and scaling. Moist, waterlogged skin is prone to it, as is flaky skin around the heels or elsewhere on the foot.
What causes it?
It is caused by a number of fungal species and can be picked up anywhere. Communal areas such as pools, showers and changing rooms or anywhere where you may walk around barefooted are more likely to be sources of cross infection.
Once contaminated, the warm, dark and sweaty environment of feet cramped in shoes or trainers provides the ideal breeding ground for the fungus. Athlete’s foot also occurs in dry, flaky areas. It is common in summer sandal-wearers. The sun dries the skin. Without the natural protective oils and frictional abrasion from sandals makes them more prone to infection.
Is it serious?
Fungal infections are highly contagious and can spread to anywhere on your skin, to your scalp, hands and groin, particularly if you use the same towel for your feet as for the rest of your body. If left untreated, the fungus can spread to the toe nails, causing thickening and yellowing of the nail.
The mistake most people make is to stop the hygiene regime or medication when the symptoms go. The fungus can lie dormant and may reappear. Certain products require continued treatment for several weeks. Always follow the instructions and be alert to symptoms so that you can deal with any problems straight away. Anti-fungal powder should primarily be used for dusting inside footwear, to help prevent re-infection.
What can a podiatrist do?
The Podiatrist may help you pinpoint the best treatment, reducing discomfort and improving the appearance.
They can also help if the fungal infection has spread to the nails, by cutting the nail back and reducing the thickness. Fungal nail infections do not respond to topical treatments. You may need oral medication (tablets). The oral medication does have side effects. If you have other medical conditions or medication, your GP or Podiatrist may recommend against it.