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Athlete’s Foot (Tinea pedis)



Athlete’s Foot : Description

Athlete’s foot, or Tinea pedis, is a common infection of the skin of the foot caused by a fungus. 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.


•Tinea pedis is the medical term for Athlete’s foot. Tinea = infections of the skin, nails, or hair caused by fungi; and pedis = foot.

•Fungus (plural: Fungi): A group of organisms traditionally included among the plants, but now considered so distinct as to constitute a separate kingdom of their own. Mushrooms are the best known fungi. Fungi are similar to plants, but they cannot make their own food like plants do. These fungi are parasites, and obtain food by infecting human skin, nails, or hair.

•Dermatophytes: A dermatophyte is a parasitic fungus that infects the skin. These fungi thrive in closed, warm, moist environments and feed on keratin, a protein found in hair, nails, and skin.

Athlete’s Foot : Symptoms

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.

On the sole of the foot (the plantar surface), tinea pedis may appear as pink-to-red skin with scales ranging from mild to widespread (diffuse).

Athlete’s Foot : Causes

The fungi that most often cause Athlete’s Foot infections are:

•Trichophyton mentagrophytes often causes blisterlike 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 bath tubs
•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.

Athlete’s Foot : Treatments and Prevention

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:

Athlete’s Foot Cream effectively relieves itching, burning, discomfort associated with tinea pedis. Usually clears fungal infection in three to seven days. Broad spectrum formula treats range of associated fungi with Miconasole nitrate, tea tree and sunflower oils, oregano, tannic acid, lavender and garlic extracts. Click here for more information.

Sweet Feet Foot and Shoe Deodorant dries up moisture in shoes that breeds bacteria and fungi, and prevents recurring problems. Foot odor iscaused by bacteria and fungi that live inside our shoes. Sweet Feet kills these odor producing germs on contact. Click here for more information.


Here are some tips on how to avoid contracting Athlete’s Foot: Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Use sandals or open shoes to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re at home.

•Go with natural materials. Wear socks that are made of natural material, such as cotton or wool, or a synthetic fiber designed to draw moisture away from your feet.
•Change socks and stockings regularly. If your feet sweat a lot, change your socks twice a day.
•Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.
•Alternate pairs of shoes. This allows time for your shoes to dry.
•Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shower shoes in communal showers, pools, fitness centers and other public areas.
•If you are prone to Athlete’s Feet, or your feet sweat excessively, use these products to help prevent new attacks of Athlete’s Feet:
◦Pedifix FungaSoap
◦Sweet Feet Foot and Shoe Deodorant

How do I prevent athletes foot?

The practices given in this section do not only help prevent spread of the fungus, they can also help greatly in managing and curing athlete’s foot in an individual by reducing or eliminating re-exposure to the fungus in one’s home environment.

The fungi that cause athlete’s foot can live on shower floors, wet towels, and footwear. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus and can spread from person to person from shared contact with showers, towels, etc. Hygiene therefore plays an important role in managing an athlete’s foot infection. Since fungi thrive in moist environments, it is very important to keep feet and footwear as dry as possible.

Prevention measures in the home

The fungi that cause athlete’s foot live on moist surfaces and can be transmitted from an infected person to members of the same household through secondary contact. By controlling the fungus growth in the household, transmission of the infection can be prevented.

Bathroom hygiene: Spray tub and bathroom floor with disinfectant after each use to help prevent reinfection and infection of other household members.
Frequent laundering: Wash sheets, towels, socks, underwear, and bedclothes in hot water (at 60 °C / 140 °F) to kill the fungus.
Change towels and bed sheets at least once per week.
Avoid sharing: Avoid sharing of towels, shoes and socks between household members.
Use a separate towel for drying infected skin areas.
Prevention measures in public places

Wear shower shoes or sandals in locker rooms, public showers, and public baths.
Wash feet, particularly between the toes, with soap and dry thoroughly after bathing or showering.
If you have experienced an infection previously, you may want to treat your feet and shoes with over-the-counter drugs.

Personal prevention measures

Dry feet well after showering, paying particular attention to the web space between the toes.
Try to limit the amount that your feet sweat by wearing open-toed shoes or well-ventilated shoes, such as lightweight mesh running shoes.
Wear lightweight cotton socks to help reduce sweat. These must be washed in hot water and/or bleached to avoid reinfection. New light weight, moisture wicking polyester socks, especially those with anti-microbial properties, may be a better choice.
Use foot powder to help reduce moisture and friction. Some foot powders also include an anti-fungal ingredient.
Keep shoes dry by wearing a different pair each day.
Change socks and shoes after exercise.
Replace sole inserts in shoes/sneakers on a frequent basis.
Replace old sneakers and exercise shoes.
After any physical activity shower with a soap that has both an antibacterial and anti-fungal agent in it.
Wash the feet every day and allow them to dry properly before putting on shoes and socks. You should use a separate towel to dry your feet. To avoid passing the infection on you should not share these towels with anyone else.
Wear socks made of cotton or wool, and change them at least twice a day or when they have become damp.
Avoid wearing shoes which are made of synthetic materials. Wear sandals or leather shoes instead.
Powder the feet and the inside of the shoes with an antifungal powder

Conventional treatments

Conventional treatment typically involves daily or twice daily application of a topical medication in conjunction with hygiene measures outlined in the above section on prevention. Keeping feet dry and practicing good hygiene is crucial to preventing reinfection. Severe or prolonged fungal skin infections may require treatment with oral anti-fungal medication. Zinc oxide based diaper rash ointment may be used; talcum powder can be used to absorb moisture to kill off the infection.

Topical medications

Antifungal drug

The fungal infection is often treated with topical antifungal agents, which can take the form of a spray, powder, cream, or gel. The most common ingredients in over-the-counter products aremiconazole nitrate (2% typical concentration in the United States) and tolnaftate (1% typ. in the U.S.). Terbinafine is another common over-the-counter drug. There exists a large number of prescription antifungal drugs, from several different drug families.

These include ketaconazole, itraconazole, naftifine, nystatin, caspofungin. One study showed that allylamines (terbinafine,Amorolfine, naftifine, butenafine) cure slightly more infections than azoles (Miconazole, ketaconazole, clotrimazole, itraconazole, sertaconazole, etc.).Undecylenic acid (a castor oilderivative) is a known fungicide that can be used for fungal skin infections such as athlete’s foot. Whitfield’s Ointment (benzoic and salicylic acid) is an older treatment that still sees occasional use.

Some topical applications such as carbol fuchsin (also known in the U.S. as Castellani’s paint), often used for intertrigo, work well but in small selected areas. This red dye, used in this treatment like many other vital stains, is both fungicidal and bacteriocidal; however, because of the staining it is cosmetically undesirable. For many years gentian violet was also used for bacterial and fungal infections between fingers or toes.

The time line for cure may be long, often 45 days or longer. The recommended course of treatment is to continue to use the topical treatment for four weeks after the symptoms have subsided to ensure that the fungus has been completely eliminated. However, because the itching associated with the infection subsides quickly, patients may not complete the courses of therapy prescribed.

Anti-itch creams are not recommended as they will alleviate the symptoms but will exacerbate the fungus; this is due to the fact that anti-itch creams typically enhance the moisture content of the skin and encourage fungal growth. For the same reason, some drug manufacturers are using a gel instead of a cream for application of topical drugs (for example, naftin and Lamisil). Novartis, maker of Lamisil, claims that a gel penetrates the skin more quickly than cream.

If the fungal invader is not a dermatophyte but a yeast, other medications such as fluconazole may be used. Typically fluconazole is used for candidal vaginal infections moniliasis but has been shown to be of benefit for those with cutaneous yeast infections as well. The most common of these infections occur in the web spaces (intertriginous) of the toes and at the base of the fingernail or toenail. The hall mark of these infections is a cherry red color surrounding the lesion and a yellow thick pus.

Oral medications

Oral treatment with griseofulvin was begun early in the 1950s. Because of the tendency to cause liver problems and to provoke aplastic anemia the drugs were used cautiously and sparingly. Over time it was found that those problems were due to the size of the crystal in the manufacturing process and microsize and now ultramicrosize crystals are available with few of the original side effects.[citation needed]

For severe cases, the current preferred oral agent in the UK, is the more effective terbinafine. Other prescription oral antifungals include itraconazole and fluconazole

Alternative treatments

Topical oils

Tea tree oil: Symptomatic relief from itching may be achieved after topical application of tea tree oil, probably due to its involvement in the histamine response; however, the efficacy of tea tree oil in the treatment of athlete’s foot (achieving mycological cure) is varied.

Onion extract. A study of the effect of 3% (v/v) aqueous onion extract was shown to be very effective in laboratory conditions against Trichophyton mentagrophytes and T. rubrum.

Garlic extract: Ajoene, a compound found in garlic, is sometimes used to treat athlete’s foot.

Boric acid: Boric acid application in the socks is used to prevent athlete’s foot when recurrent infections occurs, but is not used to treat it.[citation needed]
Baking soda: Rubbing feet with a baking soda paste and/or sprinkling baking soda in shoes is thought to help by changing pH.

Epsom salts: Some podiatrists recommend soaking the feet in a solution of Epsom salts in warm water

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  1. 07/08/2013 at 8:26 PM

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  2. 21/09/2014 at 7:30 AM

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  3. cackling fiend
    13/04/2016 at 9:07 AM

    Just want to say that Tinea Pedis is the pathogenic fungus, while Athlete’s Foot is the disease it causes. Tinea Pedis is not the medical term for Athlete’s Foot, it is merely the cause of it.

  1. 02/05/2013 at 3:10 PM

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