What causes athlete's foot?
Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus that grows on or in the top layer of skin. Fungi (plural of fungus) grow best in warm, wet places, such as the area between the toes.
Athlete's foot spreads easily. You can get it by touching the toes or feet of a person who has it. But most often, people get it by walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces near swimming pools or in locker rooms. The fungi then grow in your shoes, especially if your shoes are so tight that air cannot move around your feet.
If you touch something that has fungi on it, you can spread athlete's foot to other people-even if you don't get the infection yourself. Some people are more likely than others to get athlete's foot. Experts don't know why this is. After you have had athlete's foot, you are more likely to get it again.
What are the symptoms?
Athlete's foot can make your feet and the skin between your toes burn and itch. The skin may peel and crack. Your symptoms can depend on the type of athlete's foot you have.
- Toe web infection usually occurs between the fourth and fifth toes. The skin becomes scaly, peels, and cracks. Some people also may have an infection with bacteria. This can make the skin break down even more.
- Moccasin type infection may start with a little soreness on your foot. Then the skin on the bottom or heel of your foot can become thick and crack. In bad cases, the toenails get infected and can thicken, crumble, and even fall out. Fungal infection in toenails needs separate treatment.
- Vesicular type infection usually begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters under the skin. The blisters are usually on the bottom of the foot. But they can appear anywhere on your foot. You also can get a bacterial infection with this type of athlete's foot.
Tinea pedis, is a common infection of the skin of the foot caused by afungus. The various kinds of fungi that cause athlete's foot belong to a group called dermatophytes.
These fungi thrive in closed, warm, moist environments and feed on keratin, a protein found in hair, nails, and the epidermis, or the upper layer of the skin.
Tinea pedis is estimated to be the second most common skin disease in the United States, after acne. Up to 15% of the U.S. population may have Tinea pedis.
The symptoms of Athlete's Foot (Tinea pedis) can range from mild discomfort to more serious symptoms such as pain, unrelenting itching, inflammation, blisters, and open sores that can affect an individual's quality of life.
A chronic type may appear as a scaly dry rash on the bottom and sides of feet. This type of athlete's foot is called a"moccasin" pattern.
The most common signs and symptoms of athlete's foot are:
- Itching and burning between the toes, accompanied by redness or white moist skin.
- Itching and burning on the soles of the feet, Frequently, inflamed skin and small
itchy blisters are also present.
- Cracking and peeling skin, especially between the toes and on the soles of the feet.
- Excessive dryness of the skin on the bottoms or sides of the feet.
What it may look like:
On the top of the foot, tinea pedis appears as one or more red, scaly patches. The border of the affected skin may be raised and may contain bumps, blisters, or scabs. Often, the central portion of the patch is clear, leading to a ring-like shape.
Between the toes (the interdigital spaces), tinea pedis may appear as inflamed, scaly, and soggy white tissue. Splitting of the skin, called fissures, may be present between or under the toes. This form of tinea pedis tends to be quite itchy.
The fungi that most often cause Athlete's Foot infections are:
- Trichophyton mentagrophytes often causes blister like infections. The infection appears suddenly, is often severe, and is usually easily treated.
- Trichophyton rubrum often causes the more chronic type of Athlete's Foot known as moccasin pattern infections. This condition may last for a long time (chronic) and is often difficult to treat.
You get athlete's foot when you come in contact with the fungus and it begins to grow on your skin. Athlete's foot is easily spread (contagious) - you can get it by touching the affected area of a person who has it, or more commonly, you pick up the fungi from damp surfaces:
- Locker rooms
- Showers and bathtubs
- Around swimming pools
- Wearing other people's shoes
Predisposing Factors (those risk factors that increase your chances of infection):
- The organisms that cause Athlete's Foot thrive in damp, close environments created by wearing tight shoes that can squeeze the toes together and create warm, moist areas between them.
- Wearing damp socks and shoes. Warm, humid conditions that promote heavy sweating favor its spread.
- The fungus is carried on fragments of skin or other particles that contaminate floors, mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes, shoes, and moist surfaces. Just by walking barefoot on a contaminated surface is enough to cause Athlete's Foot.
- Person-to-person contact is another means of transmission. Although transmission can occur within a household, the infection is more commonly passed along in public areas — locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools, communal baths and showers.
- Cuts, cracks, and sores on the feet allow for easy penetration of fungi into the skin.
Not everyone who is exposed to the fungus develops Athlete's Foot. Some people appear to have a genetic component in their immune systems that allows them to successfully fight-off and prevent fungus infections of the skin, hair, and nails.
Treatment of Athlete's Foot can be divided into two parts. The first, and most important part, is to make the infected area less suitable for the Athlete Foot fungus to grow. This means:
- Keep your feet clean and dry.
- Use powders or soaking crystals, especially medicated powders to help keep your feet dry.
- Change your socks daily, or more often, if they become wet, especially from perspiration.
- Avoid vinyl, rubber, and plastic shoe materials. These materials do not allow air to flow freely into the shoe.
The second part of treatment is the use of anti-fungal creams. Anti-fungal creams destroy the fungi causing the infection, and make the skin so inhospitable that new fungi will not grow.
Podiatrists recommend the following products for the treatment of Athlete's Foot. These products are safe, effective, and really produce results:
Pedifix Tea Tree Ultimates FungaSoap naturally washes away fungus and bacteria with Tea Tree Oil. A cleansing wash helps relieve itching, dryness and other symptoms associated with athlete's foot. This patented soap is enriched with Tea Tree Oil - an essential oil used to fight germs and as an antiseptic to help prevent re-infection.
SteriShoe+ Ultraviolet Shoe Sanitizer kills up to 99.9% of the germs that cause foot infections, athlete's foot, and offensive shoe odor. Doctor tested and recommended. SteriShoe is a safe, easy and highly effective way to provide a healthier in-shoe environment for feet!
Get your shoes odor and germ free in just 15 minutes, without using chemicals!