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
- 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.