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Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot

Definition

Athlete's foot is a common fungus infection in which the skin of the feet, especially on the sole and toes, becomes itchy and sore, cracking and peeling away. Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, can be difficult to clear up completely.

Athlete's foot received its common name because the infection is often found among athletes. This is because the fungi flourish best in the around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms.

Description

Athlete's foot is very common, so common that most people will have at least one episode with this fungal infection at least once in their lives. It is found more often in adult males. In fact, symptoms that appears to be athlete's foot in young children are probably caused by some other skin condition.

Causes & symptoms

Athlete's foot is caused by a fungal infection that especially affects the skin between the toes. The fungi that cause

athlete's foot include Trichophyton rubrum, T. mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum. These fungi live exclusively on dead body tissue, such as hair, the outer layer of skin, and the nails. The fungus grows best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation. The problem is rare in children and those who customarily go barefoot.

Most people carry fungus on their skin. However, it will only flourish to the point of causing athlete's foot if conditions are right. The fungi multiply on the skin when it is irritated, weakened, or continuously moist. Sweaty feet, tight shoes, synthetic socks that do not absorb moisture well, a warm climate, and not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, all contribute to the overgrowth of the fungus. Symptoms include itchy, sore skin on the toes, with scaling, inflammation, and blisters . Blisters that break, exposing raw patches of tissue, can cause pain and swelling. The infected feet also may have an unpleasant smell. As the infection spreads, itching and burning may worsen. In severe cases, the skin cracks and seeps fluid. Sometimes a secondary bacterial infection is also present.

If it is not treated, athlete's foot can spread to the soles of the feet and toenails. Stubborn toenail infections , called tinea unguium, may appear at the same time, with crumbling, scaling, and thickened nails, and nail loss. The infection can spread further if patients scratch and then touch themselves elsewhere (especially in the groin or under the arms). It is also possible to spread the infection to other parts of the body via contaminated bed sheets, towels, or clothing. Athlete's foot is more severe and more common in people taking antibiotics, corticosteroids, birth control pills, drugs to suppress immune function, and in people with obesity, AIDS , and diabetes mellitus .

Diagnosis

A dermatologist can diagnose the condition by physical examination and by examining a preparation of skin scrapings under a microscope. Not all foot rashes are athlete's foot, which is why a physician should diagnose the condition before any remedies are used. In order to properly diagnose the infection, the physician may do a fungal culture. Using nonprescription products on a rash that is not athlete's foot could worsen the rash, therefore, proper diagnosis is important.

Treatment

The infected foot should be kept well ventilated. A foot bath containing cinnamon has been shown to slow down the growth of certain molds and fungi, and is said to be very effective in clearing up athlete's foot. Eight to ten broken cinnamon sticks are boiled in four cups of water, simmered for five minutes, and then steeped for 45 minutes. The mixture can be then placed in a basin and used daily to soak the feet.

Herbal remedies used externally to treat athlete's foot include goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ), tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.), myrrh (Commiphora molmol ), garlic (Allium sativa ), oregano oil (though its smell is quite pungent), and calendula . The affected area should be swabbed with an herbal mixture twice daily or the feet should be soaked in a herbal footbath. Pau d'arco , also called taheebo or lapacho, can be used for athlete's foot as well. The tea bags can be soaked in water for about 10 minutes and then placed on the affected areas, or by making a tincture and directly rubbing the tea onto the toes.

Aromatherapy may be helpful. Several drops of the essential oils of tea tree, peppermint (Mentha piperita ), or chamomile (Matricaria recutita ), can be added to the bath water. Chamomile may be applied directly to the toes.

Allopathic treatment

Simple cases of athlete's foot usually respond to antifungal creams or sprays, such as tolnaftate (Aftate or Tinactin), clotrimazole, miconazole nitrate (Micatin products), or Whitfield's tincture made of salicylic acid and benzoic acid. Athlete's foot may be resistant to topical medication and should not be ignored. If the infection is resistant, the doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal drug such as ketoconozole or griseofulvin. Untreated athlete's foot may lead to a secondary bacterial infection in the skin cracks.

Expected results

Athlete's foot usually responds well to treatment, but it is important to complete the recommmended treatment, even if the skin appears to be free of fungus; otherwise, the infection could return. Tinea unguium may accompany athlete's foot. It is typically very hard to treat effectively.

Prevention

A healthy diet should be maintained. Foods with a high sugar content should be avoided, including undiluted fruit juice, honey, and maple syrup.

Good personal hygiene and a few simple precautions can help prevent athlete's foot. These include:

  • The feet should be washed daily; care should be taken to avoid contact with other parts of the body.
  • The feet should be kept dry, especially between toes.
  • Tight shoes and shoes made of synthetic material should not be worn.
  • The feet need to be kept well ventilated, especially in the summer; bare feet and sandals are recommended.
  • Absorbent polypropylene or white cotton socks are recommended; they should be and changed often.
  • Bathing shoes should be worn in public bathing or showering areas.
  • A good quality foot powder should be used to keep the feet dry.
  • If anyone in the family has athlete's foot, towels, floors, and shower stalls should be washed with hot water and disinfectant after use.

Resources

BOOKS

Donahue, Peggy Jo. Relief from Chronic Skin Problems. New York: Dell Publishing, 1992.

Orkin, Milton, Howard Maibach, and Mark Dahl. Dermatology. Connecticut: McGrawHill Professional Publishing, 1991.

Stoffman, Phyllis. The Family Guide to Preventing and Treating 100 Infectious Illnesses. New York: John Wiley and Sons, 1995.

Thompson, June, et al. Mosby's Clinical Nursing. St. Louis: Mosby, 1998.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Podiatric Medical Association. 9312 Old Georgetown Rd., Bethesda, MD 20814.

Patience Paradox

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Athlete's Foot

Athlete's Foot

Definition

A common fungus infection between the toes in which the skin becomes itchy and sore, cracking and peeling away. Athlete's foot (also known as tinea pedis or foot ringworm ) can be treated, but it can be tenacious and difficult to clear up completely.

Description

Athlete's foot is a very common condition of itchy, peeling skin on the feet. In fact, it's so common that most people will have at least one episode at least once in their lives. It's less often found in women and children under age 12. (Symptoms that look like athlete's foot in young children most probably are caused by some other skin condition).

Because the fungi grow well in warm, damp areas, they flourish in and around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. Tinea pedis got its common name because the infection was common among athletes who often used these areas.

Causes and symptoms

Athlete's foot is caused by a fungal infection that most often affects the fourth and fifth toe webs. Trichophyton rubrum, T. mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton floccosum, the fungi that cause athlete's foot, are unusual in that they live exclusively on dead body tissue (hair, the outer layer of skin, and nails). The fungus grows best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation. The problem doesn't occur among people who usually go barefoot.

Many people carry the fungus on their skin. However, it will only flourish to the point of causing athlete's foot if conditions are right. Many people believe athlete's foot is highly contagious, especially in public swimming pools and shower rooms. Research has shown, however, that it is difficult to pick up the infection simply by walking barefoot over a contaminated damp floor. Exactly why some people develop the condition and others don't is not well understood.

Sweaty feet, tight shoes, synthetic socks that don't absorb moisture well, a warm climate, and not drying the feet well after swimming or bathing, all contribute to the overgrowth of the fungus.

Symptoms of athlete's foot include itchy, sore skin on the toes, with scaling, cracking, inflammation, and blisters. Blisters that break, exposing raw patches of tissue, can cause pain and swelling. As the infection spreads, itching and burning may get worse.

If it's not treated, athlete's foot can spread to the soles of the feet and toenails. Stubborn toenail infections may appear at the same time, with crumbling, scaling and thickened nails, and nail loss. The infection can spread further if patients scratch and then touch themselves elsewhere (especially in the groin or under the arms). It's also possible to spread the infection to other parts of the body via contaminated bed sheets or clothing.

Diagnosis

Not all foot rashes are athlete's foot, which is why a physician should diagnose the condition before any remedies are used. Using nonprescription products on a rash that is not athlete's foot could make the rash worse.

A dermatologist can diagnose the condition by physical examination and by examining a preparation of skin scrapings under a microscope. This test, called a KOH preparation, treats a sample of tissue scraped from the infected area with heat and potassium hydroxide (KOH). This treatment dissolves certain substances in the tissue sample, making it possible to see the fungi under the microscope.

Treatment

Athlete's foot may be resistant to medication and should not be ignored. Simple cases usually respond well to antifungal creams or sprays (clotrimazole, ketoconazole, miconazole nitrate, sulconazole nitrate, or tolnaftate). If the infection is resistant to topical treatment, the doctor may prescribe an oral antifungal drug.

Untreated athlete's foot may lead to a secondary bacterial infection in the skin cracks.

Alternative treatment

A footbath containing cinnamon has been shown to slow down the growth of certain molds and fungi, and is said to be very effective in clearing up athlete's foot. To make the bath:

  • heat four cups of water to a boil
  • add eight to 10 broken cinnamon sticks
  • reduce heat and simmer five minutes
  • remove and let the mixture steep for 45 minutes until lukewarm
  • soak feet

Other herbal remedies used externally to treat athlete's foot include: a foot soak or powder containing goldenseal (Hydrastis canadensis ); tea tree oil (Melaleuca spp.); or calendula (Calendula officinalis ) cream to help heal cracked skin.

Prognosis

Athlete's foot usually responds well to treatment, but it is important to take all medication as directed by a dermatologist, even if the skin appears to be free of fungus. Otherwise, the infection could return. The toenail infections that may accompany athlete's foot, however, are typically very hard to treat effectively.

Prevention

Good personal hygiene and a few simple precautions can help prevent athlete's foot. To prevent spread of athlete's foot:

  • wash feet daily
  • dry feet thoroughly (especially between toes)
  • avoid tight shoes (especially in summer)
  • wear sandals during warm weather
  • wear cotton socks and change them often if they get damp
  • don't wear socks made of synthetic material
  • go barefoot outdoors when possible
  • wear bathing shoes in public bathing or showering areas
  • use a good quality foot powder
  • don't wear sneakers without socks
  • wash towels, contaminated floors, and shower stalls well with hot soapy water if anyone in the family has athlete's foot.

Resources

BOOKS

Thompson, June, et al. Mosby's Clinical Nursing. St. Louis: Mosby, 1998.

ORGANIZATIONS

American Podiatric Medical Association. 9312 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814-1698. (301) 571-9200. http://www.apma.org.

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Athlete's Foot

ATHLETE'S FOOT

DEFINITION


Athlete's foot is a common fungus infection that occurs between the toes. The skin becomes itchy and sore and cracks and peels away. Athlete's foot is also known as tinea pedis (pronounced TIN-ee-uh PED-uhs) or foot ring-worm (see ringworm entry). The disease can be treated, but it can be persistent and difficult to clear up completely.

DESCRIPTION


Athlete's foot is characterized by itchy, peeling skin on the feet. It is a very common condition. Most people have the condition at least once in their lives. It occurs less often in women and in children under the age of twelve. Young children may have the symptoms of athlete's foot, but those symptoms are usually caused by other skin conditions.

The fungi that cause athlete's foot grow well in warm, damp areas. For that reason, they often occur in and around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms. That explains why tinea pedis is called athletes foot: it occurs frequently among athletes who use these facilities.

CAUSES


Athlete's foot is caused by a fungal infection that occurs most frequently between the fourth and fifth toes. The fungi that cause the disease are unusual in that they live exclusively on dead body tissue, such as dead skin and nails. These fungi grow best in moist, damp, dark places with poor ventilation. For that reason, athlete's foot is less common among people who go barefoot.

Many people carry the fungus that causes athlete's foot on their skin. The fungus becomes active, however, only when conditions are right. Many people believe that the fungus is very contagious. But that does not seem to be the case. Research shows that it is difficult to pick up the infection by simply walking barefoot on a damp floor that contains the fungus. Scientists do not know exactly why some people develop the disease and others do not.

Other factors can contribute to the growth of the athlete's foot fungus. These include sweaty feet, tight shoes, socks that do not absorb moisture, a warm climate, and inadequate drying of the feet after swimming or bathing.

SYMPTOMS


Symptoms of athlete's foot include itchy, sore skin on the toes, with scaling, cracking, inflammation, and blisters. Blisters that break can expose raw patches of tissue. These patches can also cause pain and swelling. As the infection spreads, itching and burning may get worse.

If left untreated, athlete's foot can spread to the bottom of the feet and toenails. Toenail infections may be accompanied by crumbling, scaling, and thickened nails, and nail loss. The infection can also be spread if the patient scratches him or herself and then touches another part of the body. The fungus also grows well in the groin area and under the arms. The infection can also be spread to other body parts by bed sheets and clothing that carry the fungus.

DIAGNOSIS


Patients may be tempted to treat their rash with nonprescription drugs. However, if the condition is not properly diagnosed, such drugs could make the rash worse. It is better to see a doctor about the rash. A dermatologist (skin specialist) can diagnosis athlete's foot by conducting a physical examination and studying skin scrapings from the foot under a microscope. When treated with potassium hydroxide, the scrapings show the presence of fungi.

TREATMENT


Athlete's foot may be resistant to medication and should not be ignored. Simple cases can usually be cured with antifungal (fungus-killing) creams or sprays. If creams do not work, the doctor may prescribe antifungal drugs to be taken by mouth. Untreated athlete's foot may lead to a bacterial infection in the skin cracks.

Alternative Treatment

A footbath containing cinnamon can slow down the growth of certain fungi and can be effective in clearing up athlete's foot. The bath is made by adding eight to ten cinnamon sticks to four cups of boiling water. The mixture is allowed to simmer for five minutes and then to steep for forty-five minutes. When the mixture is lukewarm, it can be used to soak the feet.

Other herbal remedies include a foot soak or powder made with goldenseal or tea tree oil. A cream made with calendula (pronounced KUH-lenjuh-luh) can also help heal cracked skin.

PROGNOSIS


Athlete's foot usually responds well to treatment. Patients should be sure to use all the medication given to them by a doctor. The disease may seem to be gone, but some fungus might still remain on the skin. In that case, the disease will reappear. Toenail infections that sometimes occur with athlete's foot can be very difficult to treat.

PREVENTION


Athlete's foot can be prevented by following some simple rules of good hygiene, including:

  • Wash feet daily
  • Dry feet thoroughly, especially between the toes
  • Avoid tight shoes, especially in summer
  • Wear sandals during warm weather
  • Wear cotton socks and change them often if they get damp
  • Do not wear socks made of synthetic materials
  • Go barefoot outdoors when possible
  • Wear bathing shoes in public bathing or showering areas
  • Use a good quality foot powder
  • Do not wear sneakers without socks
  • Wash towels, contaminated floors, and shower stalls well with hot soapy water if anyone in the family has athlete's foot

FOR MORE INFORMATION


Books

Donahue, Peggy Jo. Relief from Chronic Skin Problems. New York: Dell Publishing, 1992.

Stoffman, Phyllis. The Family Guide to Preventing and Treating 100 Infectious Illnesses. New York: John Wiley & Sons, 1995.

Organizations

American Academy of Dermatology. 930 North Meachum Road, P.O. Box 4014, Schaumburg, IL 601684014. http://www.aad.org.

American Podiatric Medical Association. 9312 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814. (301) 5719200. http://www.apma.org.

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Athlete’s Foot

Athletes Foot

What Is Athletes Foot?

How Do People Get Athletes Foot?

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Athletes Foot?

How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Athletes Foot?

How Do People Prevent Athletes Foot?

Resource

Athletes foot is a skin infection caused by a fungus. It affects the soles of the feet and the spaces between the toes.

KEYWORDS

for searching the Internet and other reference sources

Dermatophytes

Tinea pedis

What Is Athletes Foot?

The human body is home to many different kinds of fungi. Most never cause a problem. Athletes foot is caused by one group of fungi called dermatophytes (der-MA-to-fites), which are microorganisms* that live on the skin, hair, and nails. Dermatophytes need a warm, moist environment to survive and to reproduce, like the feet of athletes, for example. But, in fact, anyone with wet or sweaty feet may be prone to getting athletes foot. Athletes foot is also called tinea pedis (TIN-e-a PED-is), or ringworm of the foot.

* microorganisms
are living organisms that can only be seen using a microscope. Examples of microorganisms are fungi, bacteria, and viruses.

How Do People Get Athletes Foot?

Athletes foot is somewhat contagious*, and the most common places where people catch it are also the dampest ones: public showers, pool areas, wet towels, and bath mats. People who wear the same shoes or sneakers all the time are more likely to develop athletes foot, as are people who wear shoes or socks made from certain synthetic* materials such as rubber, vinyl, or nylon. Anything that keeps the feet warm, wet, and sweaty gives the fungus an opportunity to grow and survive.

* contagious
means transmittable from one person to another.
* synthetic
means produced artificially or chemically rather than grow naturaly.

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Athletes Foot?

Athletes foot is a condition with very specific symptoms, and these symptoms can be mild or intense, depending on the case and the person. A person with athletes foot may feel burning and stinging on the soles of the feet and in between the toes. The skin can feel very itchy as well. The fungus causes the skin to become red, flaky, or soggy. Sometimes, the skin can become cracked.

How Do Doctors Diagnose and Treat Athletes Foot?

Diagnosis

When examining a patient with athletes foot, a doctor will usually have an easy time making a diagnosis, because the fungi that cause skin problems are usually easy to recognize. Just to be sure, the doctor may take a small scraping of skin to gather some of the fungus. The fungus can then be cultured, or grown, in a small dish in a laboratory. This gives the doctor an opportunity to identify the fungus, if present.

Treatment

Most cases of athletes foot can be cured with antifungal creams or sprays, which are put directly on the skin to kill the fungus. Many of these creams and sprays are available without a prescription at drugstores. If athletes foot persists, doctors may prescribe stronger antifungal creams than those available over the counter or possibly an antifungal medication to be taken orally. If a bacterial infection has developed along with the fungal infection, then the doctor may also prescribe an antibiotic to kill the bacteria.

How Do People Prevent Athletes Foot?

People who tend to get athletes foot can do some simple things to help prevent it. The most important step is to keep the feet as dry as possible, because the fungi that cause athletes foot do not like dry places. Taking a few extra minutes to dry feet thoroughly after showering, bathing, and swimming can help a lot. Other methods of prevention include:

  • Wearing sandals and avoiding bare feet around a pool area or a public shower
  • Wearing shoes that are well ventilated, such as sneakers with small holes on their tops or sides to let air in and out
  • Wearing shoes and sneakers made of leather rather than of synthetic materials such as vinyl and nylon
  • Wearing cotton or wool socks rather than polyester socks
  • If possible, not wearing the same pair of shoes or sneakers every day, as switching between pairs gives shoes a chance to dry out after being worn.

Those people who are particularly prone to athlete s foot may find they can keep the fungi away by using antifungal powders on their feet every day.

See also

Fungal Infections

Ringworm

Resource

American Podiatric Medical Association, 9312 Old Georgetown Road, Bethesda, MD 20814. The American Podiatric Medical Association has a foot care information center and publishes Your Feet: An Owners Manual and other public education materials. Telephone 800-366-8227 or 800-foot-care

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athlete's foot

athlete's foot (ath-leets) n. a fungus infection of the skin between the toes: a type of ringworm. Medical name: tinea pedis.

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athlete's foot

athlete's foot: see ringworm.

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