What is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's Foot (tinea pedis)Waging war on athlete's foot

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Athlete's foot is caused by superficial fungi on the skin. These fungi are called dermatophytes. Athlete's foot is not caused by being dirty. However, the moisture, humidity and sweat in the foot and toe area may play a role in the development of athlete's foot. It is a contagious disorder that is characterized by "rings" of scaling and redness. It is itchy. Athlete's foot may occur on any part of the foot from the heel to in between the web spaces of the toe. When it occurs in the web space of the toe, there may be a white, moist color change known as maceration that occurs. If severe, there may be pain and susceptibility to skin breakdown. In this case, secondary bacterial infection may occur. For unknown reasons, some individuals may be more susceptible to athlete's foot than others. There are other skin conditions that can appear similar to athlete's foot and a dermatologist may help with this evaluation and differentiation.

Athlete's foot can be easily treated with over-the-counter topical antifungals, such as fungoid tincture. This is a commonly used and recommended product for fungal infections of the skin as well as those caused by candida albicans. Also, any factors that encourage a wet, moist environment for the foot should be removed. Frequent sock and shoe changing and exposure to the foot to air may be helpful.

For very severe cases, dermatologists may recommend oral antifungal medication to treat ringworm. Appropriate monitoring of blood work may be necessary in these cases as the oral medications may have serious side effects.

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