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Nasty Infectious Diseases You Want To Avoid - Athlete's Foot

Updated on November 30, 2008

 Athlete's foot, a common fungal condition causing the skin between the toes (usually the fourth and fifth toes) to itch, peel, and crack with diffuse scaling and redness of the soles and sides of the foot. Associated with wearing shoes and sweating, the condition is rare in young children and in places of the world where people do not wear shoes. It is primarily found in adolescents and men, especially those who wear sneakers without socks. A person with athlete's foot is infectious for as long as the lesions exist.

Itchy skin on the foot is probably not athlete's foot if it occurs on the top of the toes. If the foot is red, swollen, sore, blistered, and oozing, it is more likely some form of contact dermatitis, although inflammatory fungal infections can sometimes look like this. Secondary bacterial infections of the eroded skin can also look like this.

Cause - The fungi that are responsible for athlete's foot are called Dermatophytes; they live only on dead body tissue (hair, the outer layer of skin, and nails). The two main dermatophytes responsible for athlete's foot are Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes. The condition occurs both by direct and indirect contact; it can be passed in locker rooms, showers, or shared towels and shoes.

Symptoms - Symptoms may include scaling and cracking of the skin between the toes and the sides of the feet; the skin may itch and peel. There may be small water blisters between the toes; it can spread to the instep or the hands. There is often an odor.

Diagnosis - Scrapings from the affected area will be examined under a microscope for certain fungal characteristics.

Treatment - The condition may clear up without any attention, but it usually requires treatment. An untreated fungal infection can lead to bacteria invading cracks in the skin. The affected area should be kept dry, clad in dry cotton socks or in sandals, or kept uncovered. A number of nonprescription fungicide sprays will cure athlete's foot, including clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazolenitrate, sulconazole, or tolnaftate. Before applying, the feet should be bathed well with soap and water, then well dried (especially between the toes). The sprays should be applied to all sides of the feet twice a day for up to four weeks. After the spray has been applied, the feet should be covered in clean, white cotton socks. For cases that don't respond to the sprays, a physician may prescribe one of several oral medicines. When the acute phase of the infection passes, the dead skin should be removed with a bristle brush in order to remove the living fungi. All bits of the skin should be washed away. In addition, the skin underneath toenails should be scraped every two or three days with an orange stick or toothpick.

Prevention - Good hygiene is the best way to prevent athlete's foot. Disinfecting the floors of showers and locker rooms can help control the spread of infection. Once an infection has cleared up, the patient should continue using antifungal cream especially during warm weather. Avoid plastic or too-tight shoes or any type of footwear treated to keep out water. Natural materials (cotton and leather) and sandals are the best choices, whereas wool and rubber can make a fungal problem worse by trapping moisture. Shoes should be aired out regularly in the sun and wiped inside with a disinfectant-treated cloth to remove fungi-carrying dead skin. The insides of shoes should then be dusted with antifungal powder or spray. Those individuals who perspire heavily should change socks three or four times daily. Only natural white cotton socks should be worn, and they should be rinsed thoroughly during washing. Feet should be air dried after bathing and then powdered. To reduce the risk of infection, it is important to wear sandals or flipflops in public bathing areas.


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      Nakk 4 years ago

      Very interesting to know, epescially since I assumed that Hubpages was going down the proverbial plughole after Panda.I haven't really written there, although I have been a member for a couple of years. Maybe it's time to diversify, and if I don't earn a lot there, I ought to at least be able to write something that will help give me extra traffic on my Squidoo lenses.