Tinea Pedis, more commonly known as Athletes Foot is a superficial fungal infection of the foot. It presents as scaling and blisters in the webbing between the toes and results in extreme itching and pain, especially when walking. It is most common in teenage and adult males.
Most healthy people have a fairly high resistance to fungal infections, but a weakening in their resistance due to genetic factors, damaged skin, long tem antibiotic use, diabetes or other chronic illnesses may leave the otherwise healthy more susceptible to developing tinea.
Toe webbing the initial site of most Tinea Pedis
Tinea of the foot typically starts in the webbing between the third and fourth toes. If untreated it may spread to the nails. An accumulation of sweat between the toes, which cannot evaporate, will lead to the skin becoming soggy and white. Fissures in the skin will also form.
Tinea developing elsewhere on the foot, especially the soles, results in the skin becoming red, scaly and thickened. Fluid filled blisters may also develop which tend to be extremely itchy. Scratching of the infected area will result in the condition being spread further.
Tinea Pedis is highly contagious
Continuous shedding of the skin of the feet makes tinea pedis highly contagious, as fungal infected debris is left lying in communal areas. These shed skin scales may remain infectious in the environment for months or years, as they tend to be harbored in carpets and matting.
For this reason tinea pedis tends to be chronic in nature. The fungus may lie dormant in the toe webbing for many years with its presence only becoming apparent when it spreads to another site, usually the groin or skin.
Treatment must target original site
Treatment of the fungal infection at other sites is futile unless the original infection in the toe webbing is first dealt with.
Acute superficial tinea pedis may often be successfully treat with an over the counter topical antifungal cream. However chronic conditions where reinfection is occurring will require a more powerful oral antifungal.
It is also important to remember that the infected shed scales of skin left lying dormant in carpets and matting pose a risk to others who may also become infected with the fungal condition.
It is therefore necessary to ensure that all areas that have been exposed to the shed fungal skin be thoroughly cleaned regularly until the skin condition has been completely cured.
Prevention is better than cure
The old saying is so true for tinea pedis. It is much easier to prevent this condition than to cure it. Following some simple hygiene rules will help to prevent the development of Tinea of the feet:
- Keep the feet as dry as possible and ensure the feet are well dried after showering.
- Use talc on the feet to help ensure the skin is dry.
- Change shoes and socks regularly.
- Wear open sandals or bear feet when suitable.
- Avoid nylon socks, as they will increase sweating.
- Wear thongs in communal showers and bathrooms.
- Don’t share towels, shoes or socks.