Fungal infection of the feet (mycosis) is the most common skin disease. One of its types is the so-called athletic foot, or athlete’s foot, a condition where an infection affects the skin between the toes or other areas of the foot (arch, sole). The disease, most often observed in athletes (hence its name), is often found in people far from sports. How does the infection occur, how to treat the disease and can infection be avoided?

Disease symptoms

Athlete’s foot – mycosis caused by fungi of the genus Trichophyton or Candida, which affect the upper layer of the skin of the legs. The infection can spread to the entire foot, but the gaps between the toes, especially between the 4th and 5th, are most susceptible to infection, since it is these places where moisture and heat are concentrated that provide the most favorable environment for the growth of fungi.

Symptoms of the disease appear as:

  • redness and flaking of the skin;
  • itching and burning;
  • cracks;
  • pain and bleeding in severe lesions.

Launched mycosis can spread to the nails and cause their fungal infection – onychomycosis or provoke a bacterial infection and cause serious complications. Therefore, at the first symptoms of the disease, it is immediately necessary to start treatment.

Infection routes and risk factors

Dermatophytes , or skin fungi, love warm and humid places that are a good breeding ground for them. Therefore, infection most often occurs in swimming pools, saunas, baths, sports locker rooms, when an unprotected foot comes into contact with a surface infected with a carrier of the fungus. And infection of wet surfaces in such places is very likely due to the large number of people visiting these establishments. Infection can also occur through direct contact with the carrier of the infection or when using shared towels, shoes, any objects that were in contact with feet affected by the fungus.

Factors contributing to the development of an athletic foot are:

  • Shoes that are narrow or made of artificial materials that do not breathe well, that is, it makes it difficult to ventilate the foot.
  • Socks and stockings made of artificial fabrics.
  • Previously transferred fungal diseases.
  • Long stay of feet in water.
  • Increased sweating of the feet.
  • Reduced immunity (eg, diabetes).  

Experts also note that men are more susceptible to fungal infection (they become infected more often than women) and the elderly: young and middle-aged people are less likely to suffer from this disease.

Athlete’s foot treatment

At the initial stage of the disease, when the first symptoms appear, treatment can be carried out on your own using antifungal agents that are available without a prescription. There is a wide selection of such drugs in pharmacies. For the treatment of athletic feet, powders, ointments, aerosols and other dosage forms based on miconazole and clotrimazole should be chosen , the use of which should be long enough (from two to four weeks). Moreover, it is necessary to apply the medicine to the affected areas even after the symptoms disappear for another 1-2 weeks. Antifungal drugs can cope with the disease in 70-80% of cases. If the disease persists, a visit to the doctor is necessary to clarify the diagnosis and prescribe the appropriate treatment, possibly with the help of stronger drugs for internal use.

Despite the fact that persistent and prolonged treatment usually leads to recovery, recurrence of mycosis is nevertheless possible. They are especially likely in case of non-compliance or poor compliance with the necessary hygiene requirements. Moreover, the treatment of an athletic foot will only give results if it is accompanied by proper foot care, which is both a necessary condition for a successful fight against the disease and a preventive measure.

Prevention measures and foot care

It is easier to prevent a disease than to cure it – this old truth is important to remember in order not to become a victim of a fungal infection. In order to prevent the disease is necessary to correctly care for your feet and prevention of infection.  

Mycosis of the foot is an extremely contagious disease. Therefore, the main challenge for preventing infection is to keep fungal spores from getting on the skin.

  • The main rule of prevention should be the use of individual rubber or plastic shoes (slippers, slates, etc.) when visiting baths, swimming pools, saunas and other public places where it is necessary to bare feet.
  • In case of possible infection (if the feet come into contact with surfaces that may be infected), you should wash your feet with soap, wipe them thoroughly so that the skin does not remain wet, and treat with an antifungal powder.
  • It is necessary to disinfect foot care tools (scissors, nail files, etc.), as well as objects and surfaces with which the feet of other family members come in contact (bathtub, shower cubicles, rugs).
  • You should not use strangers or allow someone to use your personal belongings and hygiene items (foot towels, slippers, room slippers, etc.).

Taking good care of your feet will help eliminate conditions that would encourage fungal growth and athlete’s foot. Experts give the following advice on this matter:  

  • Keep your feet dry and clean at all times: change wet socks and shoes, combat excessive sweating of your feet, and wear shoes and socks made from natural materials.
  • After washing your feet, dry them thoroughly, paying particular attention to the interdigital space, where moisture usually accumulates. Do not wear socks or shoes until your feet are completely dry.
  • Do not wear tight shoes that interfere with proper ventilation of the feet.

Spread talcum powder or antifungal powder on the inside of shoes or socks as needed to reduce moisture.

People with weakened immunity (diabetes, oncological diseases) should be especially attentive to hygiene procedures and preventive measures , since their susceptibility to infection is very high. At the first sign of a possible fungal infection, they should immediately consult a doctor. 

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