> Athletes Foot
The term ‘athlete’s foot’ was first documented in
the Oxford English Dictionary in 1928 and gained popularity with the
product Absorbine Jr. Speculation leads us to believe that athletes
and sports teams did not have the hygiene capabilities that we do
now, and thus many athletes were optimum hosts for the fungus to grow,
thus more susceptible to the disease. Athlete’s foot can affect
anyone, regardless of fitness level, and is currently the second largest
skin condition in America after acne.
Tinea pedis (clinical term for athlete’s foot) is a parasitic
fungal infection of the epidermis (outer skin) of the human foot.
However, the term indicates the disease condition but not the fungus
that is responsible for the disease. The same fungus can also cause
Jock Itch, or tinea cruris.
Athlete’s foot is caused by a mould or yeast that thrives
on the skin surface first, and then goes into the living skin tissue
causing the infection. The most frequent fungi that cause athlete’s
foot are known as Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes. A fungal
infection of the skin (Dermatophysis), athlete's foot is spread
from other people (known as Anthropophilic) or from animals (known
as Zoophilic). Some are spread via the ground or soil, which are
called Geophilic. They are all responsible for the infections that
affect people in different ways. But Anthropophilic dermatophytes
is restricted to human hosts, producing a relatively mild but chronic
inflammation. Infections, or more precisely infestations, occur
when dermophytes grow and multiply within the skin. Sharing socks,
towels or other clothes without through hygiene is an easy way to
spread the fungus.
Athlete’s foot is first and foremost very itchy. Usually
a sufferer of athlete’s foot will notice an unwavering itch
between the toes and on the balls of the feet (between the 4th and
5th toe is most common). The scratching of athlete’s foot
only causes more inflammation and tissue damage, thus making the
symptoms worse. A few days after the onset of the initial itchiness,
the skin on and around the affected areas will begin scaling and
flaking. Sometimes athlete’s foot results in the cracking
of the skin which exposes the flesh which can be extremely painful.
Once cracks in the skin start appearing, the foot is susceptible
to numerous other fungal infections (and viral infections) and should
be kept clean at all times. Socks should also be very clean and
worn at all times.
If hygiene is not kept up, it is possible for the fungus to spread
to other parts of the body such as the armpits, elbows, knees and
groin. Although the name of the infection (both layman’s and
scientific) changes when the infection spreads to other parts of
the body, the symptoms as a whole are generally the same.
Although athlete’s foot can be easily diagnosed by visual
inspection, it should better be checked through KOH microscopy test
(with the help of potassium hydroxide preparation) in order to rule
out other probable causes like psoriasis or eczema and a biopsy
done if the causes seem doubtful. A diagnosis is important before
athlete’s foot treatment can start. Always visit your dermatologist,
podiatrist or pharmacist before commencing treatment for athlete’s
foot. A common test for fungal infections of the hair do not work
for athlete’s foot as the fungi in athlete’s foot do
not glow under the florescent light.
Because athlete’s foot is so common, there are many treatment
methods available. In the recent past, over the counter drugs were
most common. However, after many studies have shown that good hygiene
is the best way to cure athlete’s foot, more and more people
chose natural medicines to aid in dealing with the symptoms or to
speed up healing in conjunction with regular and fastidious hygiene
practices. Athlete’s foot usually lasts about 45 days.
Anti fungal agents are extremely popular. Anti fungal medicines
come in creams, gels and powders and usually contain Miconazole
nitrate and Tolnaftate. These are both over-the-counter drugs. There
are many other prescription drugs available which your physician
would prescribe to you after looking at your medical history.
Many people find creams and gels that will ease the itch of the
fungus. This is not recommended as most anti-itch creams will actually
exacerbate the problem by making the sking drier, crack easier and
in some cases actually spread the athlete’s foot.
Other treatments, such as oral medication are available for athlete’s
foot (such as griseofulvin), but these medications still have a
number of unwanted side effects such as anemia.
We know much more about athlete’s foot today than we ever
did, and doctors now agree that hygiene is the best practice for
a cure. Supplementing hygiene with natural treatments is the perfect
way to rid yourself of athlete’s foot with literally no side
effects. Common natural or alternate treatments include witch hazel,
which in some cases clears up athlete’s foot in just a few
days. Onion extract is said to have healing effects on the bacteria,
as well as baking soda and rubbing alcohol.
When considering the transmission aspect of this communicable disease,
it should be noted that it is typically transmitted through moist
environs where people usually walk barefoot like the bath house,
locker room or the shower. It may also be transmitted from sharing
bath towels. One should never walk barefoot in these areas (wearing
rubber soled sandals are ideal), or share bath towels with strangers.
Preferably, disinfecting bathrooms and locker rooms frequently can
greatly reduce the spreading of athlete’s foot. Socks and
other items of personal effects should be machine washed in warm
water regularly if any member of the family has contacted athlete’s
foot. Needless to say, all footwear and the feet should be kept
as dry as possible so that the fungi do not get any chance to thrive
Keeping yourself clean, being careful in public areas where sanitation
is in question and avoiding the sharing of towels and unwashed clothes
is the best measure for preventing athlete’s foot. Furthermore,
many other communicable diseases and afflictions can be thwarted
by following these practices.