Athlete’s Foot, clinically referred to as Tinea Pedis, is a skin infection of the feet caused by exposure to fungal dermatophyte spores. Athlete’s Foot mainly affects the soles of the feet and the inter-digital spaces, however, once acquired it can spread to other sites such as the nails. It is a common infection with an estimated 10% of the population reporting its presence with males being affected more so. [1]

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How would I get Athlete’s Foot? The answer is quite simple, it can occur when there is direct contact with an infected individual’s skin or by contact with a contaminated floor surface or material (e.g. socks or towels). Most cases occur as a result of wearing occlusive footwear for prolonged periods. Other causes of infection include using public washing facilities such as pools or gym bathrooms when barefoot and suffering from predisposing conditions (e.g. diabetes and obesity). [2]

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The signs and symptoms of Athlete’s Foot are commonly long-standing and can include scaling of the soles of the feet, red and/or macerated areas between the toes and is often associated with an itching sensation. [3] Malodour is another common clinical feature of Tinea Pedis. If caused by a specific fungal spore, Athlete’s Foot can also appear as blisters or papules over the soles of the feet which can lead to increased discomfort. [1] The diagnosis of Athlete’s Foot is often based off clinical presentation, however, further confirmation can be gained by sending away skin scrapings for microscopy and culture. [4]

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Athlete’s Foot rarely resolves if left untreated. The treatment for this condition varies from home remedies to a wide variety of topical over the counter and oral prescription medications. Home remedies used for Tinea Pedis include treatments such as tea tree essential oil and apple cider vinegar. Despite some patients finding these remedies successful, there is little evidence to support their efficacy. Clinically, unless the infection is very severe, topical over the counter creams, gels, powders or sprays will be used as first line treatment. Depending on the active ingredient and degree of infection, treatment of Athlete’s Foot with a topical medicine can range from 2 to 4 weeks. [5] In chronic, unresponsive cases, oral medication prescribed by a Doctor may be used. Before commencing oral anti-fungal treatments, your doctor may send you for liver function testings to ensure its safe use. [6]

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Appropriate hygiene techniques can be used to help prevent or control Athlete’s Foot. Examples of these preventative measures include keeping nails reasonably short and clean to avoid harbouring infection, avoiding walking without shoes when using public facilities, keeping feet dry and clean, avoiding occlusive footwear for long periods and ensuring you treat infections as soon as they arise. [7]

If you are reading this and feel you may be suffering from Athlete’s Foot, don’t risk spreading the infection further. Come and see one of our podiatrists who will be able to assist you with the best and most effective treatments.

[1] Nigam PK, Boktor SW. Tinea Pedis. [publisher unknown]. 2017; [accessed 10 March 2018]. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470421/
[2]  Bell-Syer S, Khan SM, Torgerson DJ. Oral treatments for fungal infections of the skin of the foot. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012; (10). [accessed 16 March 2018]. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0012172/
[3] DermNet NZ. Tinea Pedis. 2018; [accessed 19 March 2018]. Available from https://www.dermnetnz.org/topics/tinea-pedis/
[4] Richardson MD, Johnson EM. The Pocket Guide to Fungal Infection. Wiley. 2005; [accessed 4 April 2018]. Available from https://onlinelibrary-wiley-com.alumniproxy.library.qut.edu.au/doi/pdf/10.1002/9780470757734.ch4  
[5] Sahoo AK, Mahajan R. Management of tinea corporis, tinea cruris, and tinea pedis: A comprehensive review. Indian Dermatol Online Journal. 2016 Mar-Apr; 7(2): 77–86; [accessed 1 April 2018]. Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4804599/
[6] Elewski B, Tavakkol A. Safety and tolerability of oral antifungal agents in the treatment of fungal nail disease: a proven reality. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management 2005; 1(4) [accessed 9 April 2018].  Available from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1661633/
[7] Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis). 2017; [accessed 7 April 2018]. Available from https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/athletes_foot.html
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