The athlete's foot is a type of fungal infection of the foot that develops between the toes. It is called "Athlete's foot" because it typically occurs in people whose feet become very sweaty in tight shoes, usually due to long physical activity.
Associated Anatomy of Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot Causes
The cause of an athlete's foot infection is a fungus called Trichophyton. These fungi are normally present on the human skin but do not cause infection. They can cause infection when:
- There are breakages in the skin surface which allow these fungi to thrive and reproduce
- There is moisture and warmth brought about by constant activity in tight shoes, which allows the fungi to grow
- Damp socks can cause Athlete's foot
- Contact with someone who is infected with this fungus can also cause Athlete's foot.
Signs Or Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
The signs and symptoms of an athlete's foot infection include:
- Itchy, scaly skin between the toes
- Stinging or burning sensations in the skin between the toes
- Cracking of skin and development of oozing and crusting
- Itchy, pus-filled blisters
- Delay in the healing of the cracked skin
Athlete’s foot Treatment
In most cases, an athlete's foot infection can be easily treated using OTC medications.
- These may include topical medications like liquids, sprays, creams or powders. Common medications include ketoconazole, miconazole, and sulconazole
- The doctor recommends oral medications if the topical medications don't work. Some examples include griseofulvin, Itraconazole, terbinafine, etc.
- Doctors also suggest home remedies such as salt baths and tea tree oil for alleviating symptoms.
The best way to ensure quick recovery is to keep the area as dry as possible to prevent further fungus growth.
Risk Factor of Athlete’s Foot
- As the name suggests, athletes are more susceptible to contracting this fungal infection due to constant friction in the foot due to continuous physical activity.
- Using plastic shoes may put you at a higher risk of contracting this fungal infection than leather or canvas shoes.
- Damp shoes and damp socks that have not appropriately dried may support the growth of the fungus.
- People with immune disorders are also more likely to contract fungal infections.
Stages of Athlete’s Foot
Athletes’ foot is easily treatable and does not progress into further stages if treated appropriately.
Typical Test of Athlete’s Foot
An athlete’s foot is easily diagnosed by visual examination. The confirmatory test for this fungal infection is swabbing an area of the skin and placing it in a solution of potassium hydroxide, i.e., KOH. This leaves the fungal cells intact in the sample, which can be visually examined under a microscope and identified.
Primary Prevention of Athlete’s Foot
- Preventing friction in the feet area can help prevent this infection
- Avoiding the use of ill-fitting shoes is recommended to prevent athlete's foot
- Regular washing and cleaning of the feet and occasional soaks in saltwater are effective in preventing fungal infections
- Dabbing the area with talcum powder to soak up excess sweat and moisture is also helpful.
- Avoid sharing footwear.
Secondary Prevention of Athlete’s Foot
Secondary prevention and primary prevention of athlete’s foot are the same. Having an athlete’s foot infection once does not predispose you to have it again and again if hygiene is maintained correctly. Applying antifungal medications regularly can be helpful but may contribute to the resistance of the fungi to the medicine in the long run.
Additional Type of Athlete’s Foot
An additional type of athlete’s foot infection is ringworm infection, caused by another fungus called Candida. However, ringworm is more prominent in children and is found between the toes or the scalp.
Alternate Name of Athlete’s Foot
Differential Diagnosis for Athlete’s Foot
A microscope's visual examination can differentially diagnose an athlete’s foot. The sample from the affected tissue is collected and placed in a potassium hydroxide solution, or KOH. This kills the normal cells and leaves the infected cells intact, examined using the microscope used to diagnose.
Epidemiology of Athlete’s Foot
- Athlete's foot infections are more likely to occur in men than women [24.2% in men compared to 6.1% in women]
- Older people are more likely to contract it from shared shoes or an infected person.
Expected Prognosis of Athlete’s Foot
Athletes’ foot is easily treatable and resolves quickly with regular hygiene and timely medications. The affected skin heals to give rise to the normal skin soon after the infection dissolves.
Natural Progression of Athlete’s Foot
If not treated, the athlete’s foot infection may spread to other areas of your foot, such as toes which may become infected, resulting in their discolouration and crumbling. In rare cases, it may also spread to your hands and groin.
Pathophysiology of Athlete’s Foot
An athlete’s foot is a superficial infection of the skin of the feet. The fungus Trichophyton is a dermatophyte which releases enzymes that dissolve the skin cells and grow in the moist conditions of the skin layers. The fungus then reproduces in these conditions and thrives in moisture and warmth.
Possible Complication of Athlete’s Foot
If left untreated, a site where an athlete's foot infection has developed may also become a site for bacterial infection which may spread to the bloodstream of the infected person. This infection may culminate in the lymph system and spread further. However, this is a rare complication.
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