Skin & Nail Fungus
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that can cause red, dry, flaking skin, sometimes accompanied by pain or itching. The condition usually occurs between the toes and/or on the soles and/or sides of the feet. It usually occurs in people whose feet have become sweaty, while confined within shoes. Athlete’s Foot can also present with blisters that itch and sometimes “weep.” Athletes’s Foot is contagious and can spread via floors, towels, or clothing.
Fungal infections like Athlete’s Foot are often contracted in showers, gyms, dressing rooms, swimming pool lockers, or other warm, damp areas where fungus can thrive. The name of the condition comes from the fact that athletes spend the most time in these environments and therefore are at a higher risk of fungal infection.
Once fungal spores are present on the feet, they can enter fissures or sores and remain there to spread, unless the feet are carefully washed and thoroughly dried after exposure.
Athlete’s Foot can spread from the toes to the toenails. If the patient touches or scratches the infection and then touches other parts of the body, the fungus can spread to fingernails or other parts of the body, including the groin or underarms.
Like any foot condition, Athlete’s Foot is of special concern to people with diabetes and compromised immune systems who are more susceptible to developing infections that can lead to serious medical problems.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Vigilant foot hygiene can prevent Athlete’s Foot. Daily washing of the feet with soap and water followed by thorough drying, especially between the toes, is important. Wearing dry, airy shoes and socks, not borrowing footwear from others, avoiding tight hosiery and using foot powder all help to keep the feet dry and infection-free. When using public showers or pool areas it is a good idea to wear protective shoes.
Once an infection has occurred, it is important to see a doctor, have the problem diagnosed correctly, and treat it promptly. Fungal infections can be stubborn and difficult to treat, and can become chronic. Treatment plans include prescription antifungal medications, either topical or oral, and continued attention to keeping the feet clean and dry.
Continue to consult with your foot doctor until the problem is eradicated.
Toenail fungus, known by physicians as Onychomycosis, affects about half of Americans by the age of 70. It is relatively rare in children, but the incidence increases with age. Fungus infections occur when microscopic fungi gain entry through a small trauma in the nail, then grow and spread in the warm, moist environment inside the patient’s socks and shoes. Symptoms of toenail fungus, which can be caused by several types of fungi, include swelling, yellowing, thickening or crumbling of the nail, streaks or spots down the side of the nail, and even complete loss of the nail. Toenail color can vary from brown or yellow to white with this condition. Fungal infections can affect the fingernails as well as the toenails, but toenail fungus is more difficult to treat because toenails grow more slowly. It occurs most often on the big or small toe, but might occur on any toe.
Toenail fungus can be picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower stalls or swimming pools, and can be passed among family members. Athletes and people who wear tight-fitting shoes or tight hosiery that cause trauma to the toes or keep the feet from drying out are at higher risk. The condition can also spread from one toe to another, or to other parts of the body. Other risk factors include abnormal PH level of the skin, not drying off the feet thoroughly after bathing or exercise, and a compromised immune system in someone who has been exposed to a fungus. Diabetics have an increased risk of contracting a toenail fungus because their immune system is compromised. They should have their nails cut and debrided by a podiatrist.
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Because it is difficult to treat or eradicate toenail fungus, it is a good idea to try to prevent it. It helps to wear protective shoes or sandals in public showers, pool areas and gyms, and to avoid borrowing someone else’s shoes or sharing socks or towels with someone who has toenail fungus. Wash your feet regularly, and dry them thoroughly when they get wet. Wearing nail polish on the toes is not advised because it can seal in fungus and allow it to grow. Keep toenails trimmed, and be sure to disinfect any pedicure tools before using them. If you do develop toenail fungus, see your foot doctor. The doctor might remove as much of the nail as possible by trimming, filing or dissolving it. A serious infection will likely be treated with either an over the counter anti-fungal or a prescription oral anti-fungal medication. These medications can have side effects, so be sure to work closely with your doctor on your treatment plan. Only in severe cases will surgical removal of the nail be recommended.