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Athlete's Foot

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 Athletes's Foot


Athlete's Foot is an infection of the skin caused by a fungus. Fungus is always living on our skin. Most of the time, this fungus is held in check by our immune system. Occasionally, however, when con ditions are right, the fungus can overwhelm our natural defenses and flare up, by either rapidly reproducing on the surface of the skin or by infecting tiny scapes or tears in the skin.

Fungus thrives on warm, moist surfaces, such as the inside of shoes and shower floors. Everyone is susceptible to athlete's foot, but outbreaks are most common in people whose feet sweat profusely, especially during warm months. Just as some of us are more susceptible than others to colds or allergies, some of us are more susceptible to fungal infections. Often susceptibility is a family trait.
Free your feet from your shoes whenever possible to let them "breathe". The dark, moist, warm environment created by shoes is a breeding ground for bacteria and fungus. Sandals are great for warm climates and seasons, and for those whose feet sweat heavily or are prone to odor. In colder climates and during colder seasons, changing socks frequently helps keep the feet dry.


The most common symptoms of Athlete's Foot are redness with itching. Flaking skin on the bottom of the foot. Some forms of athlete's foot cause moist, white, peeling skin between the toes or small fluid-filled blisters on the arch. Other symptoms including burning and odor. if untreated, athlete's foot can contribute to fungal infection of the toenails and secondary bacterial skin infections. Even with diligent treatment some people are vulnerable to recurrences.  


Treatments of athlete's foot involves good foot hygiene, topical medications, and frequent shoe and sock changes, Foot hygiene requires bathing the feet daily in soap and water and drying them thoroughly, especially inbetween the toes.
Keeping the skin dry by using foot powders and wearing ventilated shoes is also important. Old, smelly shoes should be thrown away to prevent reinfection. Suffers should wear clean socks every day. Clean socks help keep the feet dry, and most importent, minimize the amount of fungus on the skin. For those whose feet tend to sweat profusely, changing socks two or three times a day is beneficial.
Do not treat a suspected case of athlete's foot with anything other than an antifugal medication unless directed to do so by a doctor. Topical cortisone creams can actually make the infection worse, and topical antibiotics can promote growth of resistant forms of bacteria. 


In addition to good foot hygiene, treatment of athlete's foot requires medication. Seventy to 80 percent of athlete's foot infections respond to topical , over-the-counter treatments. A doctor's care may be needed for stubborn cases of athlete's foot(those that do not respond to treatment within one or two weeks). He or she may run diagnostic lab tests to confirm the diagnosis and to decide if treatment with prescription medication is necessary.


Sloughing, or peeling skin between the toes can be a sign of a particularly stubborn form of athlete's foot that involves a bacterial infection as well as a fungal infection. This form is most commonly seen between the fourth and fifth toes. Treatment is the same as that for opther athlete's foot outbreaks: wash and thoroughly dry the feet and apply an antifugal powder on a daily basis.In some cases, placing swatches of cotton or lamb's wool between the toes is also helpful. Keeping the areas between the toes as dry as possible will promote healing.Sufferers should see a doctor if an outbreak does not respond within two weeks. A priscription medication may be required.

Treat athlete's foot for one to two weeks after the symptoms have disappeared and use an antifugal powder daily thereafter to minimize the risk of recurrence.
Reference: Great Feet for Life: Paul Langer, DPM

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