Things you should know about foot care

Know Your Feet

Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is a skin rash on the feet. It is mostly located on the sole or around the toes. It is occasionally found on the top of the foot and may inflict one or both feet at any given time. Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus. Funguses are similar to bacteria in that they are contagious and can be spread from person to person. Most people contract the fungus initially by walking barefoot in an area where other people who have athlete's foot have already stepped. These already infected feet leave behind fungus on the ground which you can then come in contact with. Common places where athlete's foot can be contracted include hotel room bathtubs and showers, gym locker room floors and around public swimming pools. If you should come in contact with the fungus it may grow in the skin layers and cause a rash to occur. Not everyone who comes in contact with the fungus is effected. Many of our patients have lived for years with spouses who have athlete's foot rashes yet they themselves never have a problem. This can be attributed to the fact that certain skin types appear to be more prone to contracting the fungus. People with warm, sweaty feet are much more likely to be afflicted, thus making teenage boys a prime target.

Athlete's foot present as two very different types of rash, an acute form and a chronic form. The acute presentation is what most people are familiar with. Located around or between the toes it is a very itchy, red, burning rash often accompanied by small blisters. Teenagers, athletes and young adults are commonly inflicted with this acute scenario. Chronic athlete's foot has an entirely different appearance. It is found along part or all of the bottom of the foot and can extend from the heel to the toes. It presents as dry, flaky even peeling skin that may sometimes fissure. It is rarely itchy. Many people confuse chronic athlete's foot for simple dry skin. At times, especially during bouts of hot weather, the chronic form of athlete's foot may break out into areas that resemble acute athlete's foot with the formation of blisters and symptoms of burning and itching.

There are a number of steps you can take at home to treat your athlete's foot rash. First keep in mind that if you are unsure its athlete's foot you're suffering from, or if its severe, seek medical attention. Also please read the last section for information on when seeing a doctor is essential. Home care tips include the following:
1. Keep the feet clean. Wash daily preferably with an antibacterial soap such as Dial.
2. Keep the feet dry. Dry well after bathing especially between the toes. Use an antifungual foot powder such as Tincatin on the feet and in the shoes daily.
3. Pay special attention to your shoes. Shoes made of materials that "breathe" such as leather and natural fibers are best. Avoid shoes with uppers made of man made materials. Rotate your shoes so that you do not wear the same pair each day. When appropriate wear sandals. Treat your shoes as well as your feet by lightly spraying them once a week on the insoles with Lysol and allowing them to dry overnight. Also if possible remove the innersoles of gym shoes and place in a sunny window for several hours to help kill off any fungus that resides in the shoe. Throw old, stinky shoes away.
4. Wear clean socks daily. White, cotton blends are a good choice. Use hot water and bleach when washing them. Avoid nylons which trap moisture and heat.
5. If you rash continues try an over the counter, nonprescription medication such as Lotrimin cream.
6. If the above measures fail see a professional for evaluation and treatment.

Athlete's foot is a common condition. For the most part it is a nuisance but there are times it can be serious and prompt medical attention is needed. One of the potential complications of athlete's foot is a secondary bacterial infection. This occurs when the rash from the athlete's foot fungus causes the skin to blister or tear thus allowing a bacteria such as Strep or Staph to gain easy access to the skin. Subsequently a bacterial infection can occur causing an abscess or cellulitis. These conditions are serious and require a doctor's evaluation and treatment with an antibiotic. Signs of a bacterial infection include drainage, pain, redness (especially if the redness is streaking up the foot) and swelling. If you have diabetes, peripheral vascular disease, rheumatoid arthritis or are taking immunosuppressive medications such as prednisone you should not perform any self treatments but should see a doctor promptly for care. Lastly those persons with athlete's foot are more likely to develop fungus toenails. This occurs when the fungus from the skin enters a crack in the nail and begins to grow there as well. Signs of a fungus toenail (onychomycosis) include
discoloration, cracking, peeling, lifting of the nail from the underlying nail bed and thickening of the nails.