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Athletes Foot

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the foot and because of this, it is highly contagious and can be picked up from anywhere like communal areas such as pools, showers and changing rooms, or anywhere where you may walk around barefooted.

The first sign of athlete’s foot is often intense itching which can lead to blistering or peeling of the skin, with redness and scaling. Fungal infections thrive in warm, moist conditions and the most common site for the infection is between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth toes. It can also occur on dry, flaky skin around the heels or elsewhere on the foot. It can spread to other parts of the feet or body and can even lead to fungal infections of the nails, so treatment is essential.

Who is affected?
Athlete’s foot can affect people of all ages but it is more common in men and teenagers. People who play a lot of sport are more likely to suffer as this tends to make the feet warmer and more moist than usual, which provides the ideal environment for the fungi to grow.

What can I do?
After washing your feet, dry them thoroughly, particularly between the toes. Put the towel in the wash, before using it again!
Change your footwear on a regular basis which will stop the athlete’s foot from re-infecting. It can take 1 or 2 days for shoes to dry out properly, so alternate your shoes daily.  

If your shoes are tight and they squeeze your toes together, this encourages moisture to gather between your toes and encourages fungus. Let air circulate between the toes by going for a wider, deeper toe-box instead and choose shoes made from natural materials.

Anti-fungal powders are also good for dusting inside shoes and trainers to help prevent cross-infection
Choose socks and hosiery made from natural fibres such as cotton which allows the feet to breathe and change them daily.
Wear flip-flops in the bathroom and in public showers to prevent re-infection and never wear anyone else’s shoes, trainers or slippers.

Treatment and what a podiatrist can do to help?
Wash your feet in tepid water and dry them thoroughly afterwards – making sure you use a clean towel.  Dry both feet well, concentrating between the toes as this is where most of the moisture collects. Although the skin may appear flaky and dry - never use moisturiser between your toes. Avoid powder too as it can irritate the skin. A spirit-based preparation can help, such as surgical spirit (it’s cooling, soothing and antiseptic). It might sting a bit, but it evaporates the moisture and allows the skin to heal.
If your athlete's foot is mild or you’ve only just started to suffer, surgical spirit may be enough to clear it up. However if an antifungal cream or medication is required, your podiatrist can recommend one.

Your podiatrist can also help if the fungal infection has spread to your nails, by reducing the thickness and cutting back the nails in preparation for treatment. Nail infections don’t respond to topical treatments. You need oral medication (i.e. tablets) to kill the fungus in nails. If the fungus is only in the nail and not elsewhere, it is probably caused by an injury. An injury allows the fungus to creep in and multiply under the nail. This can affect the nail which may become crusty, discoloured and deformed. This oral medication needed, however, can have side effects. So if you have other medical conditions or are on other medication, your GP or podiatrist may recommend that you don’t take it.

It is important not to stop your hygiene regime, shoe rotation and/or medication, even once your symptoms have gone. Even though your symptoms may disappear after several days or weeks, the fungus can lie dormant and could eventually reappear if the environment is right.  Also, be alert to symptoms so that you can deal with any problems straight away.