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Spotlight On… Athlete’s Foot

By Deen Kurrimbux

Tinea pedis, more commonly known as athlete’s foot (AF), is a fungal infection usually occurring between the toes.

Athlete's Foot

It appears as an itchy, red rash on the skin.

Bacteria and fungi are naturally found on the foot (and other areas of the body) and are normally harmless. The fungi group chiefly responsible for AF is dermatophytes. Literally meaning ‘skin feeders’, dermatophytes live and feed off dead skin cells. AF is highly contagious passed on through contaminated towels, surfaces and clothing but also direct person to person contact. High incidences can occur in showers, changing rooms and swimming pools.

Athlete's Foot

Typical symptoms include scaly, red, inflamed, flaky and itchy skin not just between the toes but also along the sides of the foot and the sole. If the infection is left untreated it can spread to the toenails and become a fungal nail infection. It can spread to other parts of the body if scratching the infected area then touching another area, so good hand hygiene is recommended to prevent the spread. The fungal infection can spread to the hands (tinea manuum) but this is very rare as people wash their hands much more regularly.

A variety of anti-fungal self-medicating treatments are available, these come in the form of powders, creams, sprays, tablets and liquids. If treated promptly AF can last from one to 10 days with proper treatments. Left untreated, it can take longer (months or years) to clear up with the possibility of further complications such as other infections caused by the skin drying and splitting open.

While it is not always preventable, good foot hygiene will reduce the incidence of occurrence; washing the feet regularly, thoroughly drying them after, wearing clean cotton socks and not sharing towels all help reduce the risk of developing AF.

What is your experience of athlete's foot? Share your story or leave a comment below.

Read more Spotlight articles. Search the Skin Disease Dictionary

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The prevalence of skin disease exceeds that of obesity, hypertension, or cancer. Despite skin being the largest organ of the human body, dermatological research remains one of the most under funded areas of medicine. In a world where society has an increasing preoccupation with image and it’s importance to every aspect of a person’s life, sufferers of skin diseases are feeling and being more marginalised and isolated than ever.

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