Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s Foot

Do you have red, itching burning feet? Is the skin on your feet or between your toes red and flaky? This can be caused by a variety of problems, such as eczema, dermatitis or psoriasis. But by far the most common problem is an infection known as tinea pedis, or “athlete’s foot”.

This is a fungal infection often picked up in locker rooms and showers. The fungus causes redness, cracking, itching and sometimes blisters between the toes.

Athlete’s Foot (‘Tinea’) is a contagious fungal skin infection. The most commonly affected areas include the feet, groin, scalp and beneath the breasts. Tinea can be spread by skin-to-skin contact or indirectly through towels, clothes or floors. Tinea is also known as ringworm, which is a misleading name as no worm is involved.

All fungi need warm, moist environments and tinea is no exception. This is why the hottest, most sweat-prone areas of the body are the most likely areas for a tinea infection to occur. Communal showers and locker rooms are typical places where infection may be spread.

Types of tinea:

Tinea infections are known by specific names, depending on the part of the body that is affected. The most common types of tinea include:

  • Athlete’s foot – tinea of the foot, known as tinea pedis
  • Jock itch – tinea of the groin, known as tinea cruris
  • Ringworm of the scalp – tinea of the head, known as tinea capitis (mainly affects children)
  • Ringworm of the body – tinea of the body, known as tinea corporis
  • Nail infection (onychomycosis) – tinea of the toe or finger nails, known as tinea unguium.

Symptoms of tinea

The symptoms can include:

  • Itching and stinging
  • Red scaly rash that is shaped like a ring (annular)
  • Cracking, splitting and peeling in the toe web spaces
  • Blisters
  • Yellow or white discoloration of the nails
  • Bald spots on the scalp.

How to avoid tinea infection

Overheating and perspiration contribute to tinea infections. Suggestions to avoid tinea infection include:

  • After washing, dry the skin thoroughly, particularly between the toes and within skin folds.
  • Expose the skin to the air as much as possible.
  • Wear cotton socks instead of synthetics.
  • Use antiperspirants to control excessive perspiration (sweating).
  • Wear thongs to swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms and other communal areas.

Treating a tinea infection

Tinea infections respond well to antifungal creams. Some infections are harder to shift and might also require an antifungal medication in the form of a tablet.

Preventing the spread of tinea

It is important to remember that tinea is contagious. Suggestions on how to prevent the spread of infection to others include:

  • Treat tinea infections with antifungal cream.
  • Wash your hands after touching infected areas.
  • Do not share towels.
  • Do not walk around barefoot if you have tinea pedis (tinea of the feet).
  • Clean the shower, bath and bathroom floor after use.

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