Athlete’s Foot: The Unwanted Stuff

Athlete’s Foot is a common infection also known as ringworm of the foot or tinea pedis. The infection is caused by the fungus trichophyton. Fungus can proliferate in the upper layer of the skin when the feet stay moist, warm and irritated. This fungal infection can occur anywhere in the body such as the scalp, trunk, arms, legs, nails, vagina, mouth and groin.

Trichophyton, the fungus that causes this infection, can be found in locations such as wet floors of bathroom, gym, swimming pools, locker room, nail salons, socks, shoes and clothing. The fungus can be transmitted by direct contact with objects or by person to person. Most people get athlete’s foot when they walk barefoot on areas where a person with athlete’s foot has walked. Other causes include contact with pets that have the fungus on their fur.

Athlete’s foot is characterized by itchy, cracking, moist, white scaly lesions between the toes. This lesion can spread on the soles. Another type of lesion is red “moccasin-like” area over soles of the feet. This type of athlete’s foot affects both feet. Some people are more prone to this infection than others who seem to be resistant to it. Without the proper environment for fungal thrive which is a warm, moist environment, the fungus may not easily infect the skin. Blisters may also occur that leads to pain and swelling. Tinea pedis (another name for athlete’s foot) most often occurs between the fourth and fifth digits (toes). Some individuals may experience an allergic response to fungal infection known as id reaction. This reaction is characterized by blisters and vesicles that show in the arms, hands and chest.

Athlete’s foot can be diagnosed by visual inspection. But when the diagnosis is inconclusive, a direct microscopy of potassium hydroxide will help rule out other possible conditions such as eczema and psoriasis. This test is performed by scraping the skin. Although potassium hydroxide can help diagnose athlete’s foot, the results can show a false positive outcome when anti fungal medication has begun prior to the exam. Another way to confirm doubtful cases of athlete’s foot is skin biopsy. A histological examination is done to confirm the fungal infection. The wood’s lamp which is a diagnostic procedure for tinea capitis or ringworm of the scalp is not helpful in diagnosing athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is treated with antifungal medications. Topical medication is applied once or twice daily. Proper hygiene is needed in order to have faster recovery and halt the spread of infection. There exist a number of anti fungal medications that can treat athlete’s foot such as ketoconazole, nystatin, naftifine and itraconazole.

When the infection is severe or prolonged, oral anti fungal medication may be needed. Tea tree oil may be used as an alternative treatment for this infection. This oil does not cure the infection but improves the symptoms of athlete’s foot.

On the other hand, a solution of 1% potassium permanganate dissolved in hot water is found to be effective in treating this infection.

Ajoene, a compound found in garlic is sometimes used as treatment for athlete’s foot.

In order to prevent acquiring athlete’s foot, one needs to have proper hygiene. An individual should also keep feet dry all the time. There should be no sharing of towels, shoes and clothing because the fungi reside in these things.

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