Athlete's foot (Tinea pedis) is a very common skin infection caused by a fungus.
It most often affects the skin between the toes, making it ﬂaky, cracked, red and sore. In some people the skin becomes very sore and may even bleed.
The space between the fourth and ﬁfth toes is most commonly affected and if untreated can spread to the toenails and adjacent areas of the foot.
There are several different fungi present on our skin. Under normal conditions these fungi cause no problems and go unnoticed. However, under certain conditions such as warm, moist and dark areas, the fungi are able to multiply rapidly and cause infection.
Infected cracks in the skin sometimes lead to a more signiﬁcant secondary bacterial infection.
Athlete's foot is contagious and can be spread from person to person through direct contact, through a cut or abrasion of the foot or indirectly through towels and walking barefoot in places such as changing rooms and swimming pools.
There are various creams (for use directly on the feet), powders (for use in shoes and socks) and sprays (for use directly on the feet and sprayed in shoes) available over the counter to treat athlete's foot. Imidazole creams such as miconazole and clotrimazole work by killing the fungus and need to be applied until the skin seems to be back to normal and then for a further two weeks to eradicate all the remaining fungal spores.
Topical terbinaﬁne cream requires only 1 to 2 weeks of treatment but is more expensive than imidazole creams. There is also a single use product available.
Tolnaftates act by reducing the growth of fungus and can be used in conjunction with Imidazole creams.
Salicylic and Benzoic acid combined are able to penetrate the skin by removing surface hard skin.
If symptoms do not improve after the recommended treatment time it is advisable to see your GP who may prescribe antifungal tablets particularly if the infection has spread to the nails.
Diabetics are more prone to developing an infection in addition to athlete's foot and should always consult a GP.
The following tips may be useful for anybody who has athlete's foot or who ﬁnd that the infection keeps coming back:
Wash your feet daily.
Dry thoroughly especially between the toes.
Try to not let your feet get sweaty and avoid wearing thick socks or tight shoes in warm weather.
Change your socks or tights daily. Wear socks and shoes made from natural materials.
Wear plastic shoes or ﬂip ﬂops in public showers, changing rooms and around pools.
Do not share towels.
Air' your feet as often as you can.