Athletes foot

What is athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a common skin condition which can affect all areas of the foot. The symptoms can be slightly different depending on the area of the foot affected – and you may have athlete’s foot in multiple areas at once. 

In between the toes (interdigital) – This can appear as dry, flaky skin, or white, rubbery and macerated (softened and wet) skin at the webbing of the toes. The interdigital skin can also be more prone to cracking open, causing painful sores between the toes.

Soles of the feet – This usually presents as very dry, itchy, flaky skin that can be quite widespread across part or all of the sole of the foot. The borders of the foot may look a darker pink colour compared to the rest of the skin, but this may be less visible for individuals with darker skin tones. 

On the tops of the feet – This also presents as dry, itchy skin, and sometimes there may be small red bumps (known as vesicles) that may look similar to some skin rashes. 

What causes athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection. This fungus will grow and thrive both in warm, damp conditions and very dry conditions. 

You may be more prone to athletes foot if your feet are regularly exposed to damp, wet conditions such as if you work outside, if you suffer with sweaty feet, or if you regularly participate in certain activities , such as swimming and outdoor sports where you are exposed to wet weather conditions.

Some behavioural patterns can also increase your risk of athletes foot such as: forgetting to dry between your toes after showing, applying moisturiser between the toes, walking barefoot in communal areas, such as swimming pools or public showers, or if you do not change your socks at least once everyday.

Athlete’s Foot Treatment & Prevention

Athlete’s Foot Treatment

  • Antifungal creams: These are best for dry athlete’s foot conditions, such as on the soles or tops of the feet. These are usually applied once or twice daily across the affected area, but can be purchased as a single application treatment. 
  • Antifungal foot powder: This is best for interdigital athlete’s foot where there is increased moisture and maceration. Also applied once or twice daily.
  • Antifungal shoe sprays: Used to spray inside the shoe. It is important to treat the footwear as well as the skin in order to prevent re-infection. 


Prevention

Do ✓

  • Practice good foot hygiene: keep your feet clean and dry and change your socks every day.
  • If you have sweaty feet, change your socks regularly throughout the day to prevent prolonged periods of time where your feet are in a warm and damp environment. Alcohol-based or astringent wipes can be used to wipe the interdigital spaces between the toes to reduce moisture.
  • Replace wet socks and shoes for dry socks/shoes as soon as possible, if you are caught in the rain or working in damp conditions. 
  • Dry your feet thoroughly before applying socks, paying close attention to the interdigital web spaces. Make sure to pat this area dry instead of rubbing. This helps to protect the fragile interdigital skin.
  • Wear flip flops in public spaces such as swimming pools; do not go barefoot.

 

Don’t X

  • Do not apply moisturising creams in between the toes.
  • Do not touch someone else’s athlete’s foot, as fungal infections can be spread through direct contact.
  • Do not wear wet shoes. Make sure they are thoroughly dry between each use.

 

If your symptoms do not improve with antifungal treatment, consult with your GP or a healthcare professional to check that your symptoms are not caused by a different skin condition, such as contact dermatitis, eczema or psoriasis. If it is athlete’s foot, they can give you stronger treatments to help tackle the infection.

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