Athlete's Foot! Where did that come from?
Stinging! Itching! Burning! These are common complaints for a common condition. Athlete’s Foot, also known as tinea pedis, is caused by dermatophytes. Dermatophytes are fungi (plural of fungus) that use keratin as a food source. Keratin is a protein made by the skin to give it strength and flexibility, and to waterproof the skin’s surface. (Yeast, along with molds and mushrooms, are also types of fungi!)
When the skin is dry, the outer-most layer of skin cells flake off. These dry conditions discourage the growth of dermatophytes (fungi). But when the feet are moist, usually as a result of sweating, the perfect conditions for the growth of dermatophytes has been created. Dermatophytes, which are commonly found on our skin, begin to grow by feeding on the keratin, spreading wider and deeper into the surrounding skin. The end result is Athlete's Foot.
The Causes of Athlete’s Foot include:
· Not thoroughly washing and drying your feet after they have become wet, whether from sweating or exposure to water
· Wearing old shoes that have regularly been exposed to sweating, as they can become a fungal breeding ground
· Wearing tight and/or closed shoes that cause the feet to sweat
· Wearing heavy or thick socks that cause the feet to sweat
· Walking barefoot on surfaces, such as in the gym, in locker rooms, and in pool areas
· Sharing wet towels
· Wearing shoes and/or socks belonging to others that have Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s Foot most commonly affects the toes and the spaces between, which are often warm and moist. But it can also be found on the bottom of feet. Symptoms you may notice include:
· Scaling or flaking of the skin
· Moist appearance
· Painful skin cracking
· Fluid-filled blisters
· Skin thickening
Athlete’s Foot can successfully be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal creams, sprays, and powders. Consult with your pharmacist or pharmacy technician if you are unsure of what to try. It is to be applied, according to the package instructions, between the toes and other affected areas. If you find that your symptoms are not getting better or are worsening, consult with your medical provider.
The goal of treatment is to eliminate an environment that encourages dermatophyte (fungal) growth. Remember, dermatophytes thrive in warm, moist places.
Here are some ways to help prevent exposure to and growth of dermatophytes. If you already have Athlete’s Foot, use these tips along with your anti-fungal treatment:
· Wear flip-flops or sandals when walking in public areas, such as the gym, pool areas, and showering facilities
· Thoroughly wash and dry between your toes and your feet after bathing or any water exposure
· Wear wicking socks, which help to keep your feet dry. Change into dry socks as your feet sweat
· Wear breathable shoes
· Avoid getting your feet wet
· Remove wet shoes as soon as possible
· Spray anti-fungal spray or dust anti-fungal powder into your shoes and/or socks (according to the package label)
· When shopping for shoes, bring your own pair of socks to wear
· Never wear someone else’s shoes or socks