Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis is a fungal infection that affects the foot and it is caused by fungi called dermatophytes. This type of fungi can be found both indoors and out in the natural world. Like most fungi, they love warm, moist environments, so areas such as pools, showers, locker rooms and other sports facilities where people are likely to often walk with bare feet are the places where contamination most often occurs. Once the dermatophytes manage to get on the skin of one’s foot, the convenience of the warm and moist enough environment of sweaty socks and shoes causes them to grow.
Now that I went through the basics of this infection, let’s see what are its symptoms:
Itching of the feet that comes with high intensity
Areas of skin that are cracked, blistered or in the process of peeling (this occuers especially between the toes)
Red soles that might also be in the process of scaling
More often than not, the infection remains on the webbed skin between the toes. However, sometimes it can spread to one or more toenails, thus causing the nail to appear thicker than normal and yellowish.
How Can Athlete’s Foot or Tinea Pedis Be Diagnosed?
When determining if a patient has this condition or not, the doctor will ask about the symptoms and discuss possible lifestyle factors that make someone more prone to developing athlete’s foot. The latter includes the use of public sports facilities, clubs or showers. The doctor may also ask what type of shoes and socks the person usually wears, what kind of work they do and what kind of shoes does the person wear during the long work hours.
In general, a doctor can diagnose athlete’s foot simply by looking at one’s feet. However, in order to confirm the diagnosis, he/she will have to gently scrape some flakes of skin from a scaly portion of the foot and put it on a slide. Then, the doctor will check whether there are dermatophytes showing up under a microscope that might be causing the infection.
How Long Does It Take for Athlete’s Foot Infection to Go Away?
Not as quick as one would hope, but not too long either – it can take from several weeks to several months for the infection to respond to the given treatment. The rsiky part is that even after proper medical treatment, this type of infection can return easily. This can quicky happen if the person’s feet are exposed again to this kind of fungi and the sweaty, warm conditions they thrive in. That being said, there are some people who have suffered from athlete’s foot infection which report that the infection keeps coming back and it takes years for the area to free itself from it completely. In order to cure the infection successfully, one must alter the ways in which he/she takes care of the feet.
Preventing the Possibility of Being Infected by This Fungi
The most important thing that can help prevent athlete’s foot is to keep your feet clean and dry. To be more specific, it is recommended to wash the feet thoroughly every day and wear a clean pair of socks after the long day. Taking enough time to dry the feet (all toes included, especially the webbed area between the toes) after taking a bath, showering or going for a swim is paramount too.
If your lifestyle requires you to use public pools or showers, it is advisable to wear thongs or sandals so that you don’t touch floors that might be contaminated with fungi with your bare feet. Going for leather shoes rather than vinyl is also a manner of prevention due to the simple fact that leather allows for the skin to breathe, which means that this way the feet are more likely to stay dry. Wearing cotton socks can also help for better absorption of sweat. This is a less known prevention tip, but apparently if you don’t wear the same pair of shoes two days in a row, you are less likely to develop athletes’s foot or tinea pedis. And remember to never share shoes with another person.
The initial treatment for athlete’s foot comes in the form of antifungal medications which need to be applied to the feet. These generally include the following ingredients: ciclopirox (Loprox), clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex), econazole (Spectazole), terbinafine (Lamisil), ketoconazole (Nizoral), miconazole (Micatin), naftifine (Naftin), oxiconazole (Oxistat), sulconazole (Exelderm), , terconazole (Terazol), and tolnaftate (Desenex, Tinactin). The treatment may take many weeks. Sometimes, topical antifungal drugs may relieve the symptoms, but the infection might keep coming back or take a lot longer to go away.
If the aforementioned doesn’t work, the doctor will prescribe medications by mouth which may come with side effects, but also a higher success rate. These include griseofulvin (Fulvicin, Grifulvin, Grisactin), itraconazole (Sporanox) and terbinafine (Lamisil).