Tinea Pedis, Athlete’s Foot or ringworm of the feet is caused by a fungus, a tiny microscopic plant which cannot be seen by the naked eye. It is an infection that spreads easily and is difficult to get rid of. It is common in people of all ages and particularly in sportspeople and athletes which has led to the name “Athlete’s Foot”.
What causes Tinea Pedis?
Tinea Pedis is caused by three types of fungi or dermatophytes. These include Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trychophyton. The ringworm of the foot is mainly caused by T. Rubrum and T.Mentagrophytes.
It is more prevalent in the following groups:
- In school going children who wear tight sweaty socks for longer periods of physical activity.
- In swimmers or people using public swimming baths and modern day leisure centers.
- In coal miners and sailors who work under humid, warm conditions.
- In athletes and marathon runners.
Tinea Pedis is known to be 4 times more prevalent in males than in females.
What are the signs and symptoms of Ringworm of the Feet?
There are different clinical presentations of Tinea Pedis. These include:
- Interdigital Tinea Pedis which consists of macerated and scaly growth found in between the toes.
- Plantar type of Tinea Pedis which consists of powdery material on a red scaly background mainly on soles, heels and side of the feet.
- Vesicular or bullous type of ringworm of the feet which consists of inflamed pustules and blisters, a condition that is often confused with dermatitis of the foot.
Many types of skin allergies and conditions look exactly like ringworm of the feet. Therefore, to diagnose it, your doctor might take a scraping of your skin and send it to the lab to grow the fungus in a test tube. This can help one determine the exact type of dermatophyte so as to prescribe the right medicine for its treatment.
Different antifungal medicines used for treating Athlete’s Foot
Before the 1950s, only topical medications were available for treating ringworm of the feet. Griseofulvin was then developed as an oral medication against various fungal infections. However, its drawback was that, while effective, it was required to be taken for longer periods of time. Later, the ‘azole’ class of anti fungal was produced, however, its main drug, ketoconazole was associated with liver damage.
By 1980, itraconazole and fluconazole were used for treatment, and these had several advantages such as decreased toxicity and increased potency. Today, many doctors recommend Terbinafine for treating Tinea infections for its wide spectrum fungicidal activity.
How did I get ringworm infection on my foot?
The fungus which causes Tinea Pedis survives and thrives on moist and humid conditions. You can catch it from another infected person, from an animal or even from your environment. This is because; dermatophytes live on damp or wet shower floors, in locker rooms, on pets and so on. Sharing clothes, shoes, socks and other items with an infected person can also cause these infections.
Getting rid of Tinea Pedis and preventing recurrence
Your healthcare provider will take a look at your rash and recommend the right antifungal medications, creams or oral medicines. Use these are prescribed and also follow the general guidelines described below to prevent Tinea Pedis:
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Change wet sweaty socks.
- Wash socks daily using hot water and mild bleach
- At home, keep your feet exposed to the air.
- Before wearing socks, liberally dust your feet with anti fungal powder
- Apply the skin cream on the rash evenly ensuring that the cream stays on for several hours.
- Avoid walking barefoot on floors in public locker rooms, gyms, areas near the swimming pools, public baths and shower stalls etc.
- Never borrow other people’s shoes or socks. Throw away old, worn out sweaty sneakers and exercise shoes.
- Treat infected pets. Watch out for signs of patchy hair loss, itchiness, and dandruff. Talk to your vet about the use of antifungal lotions, shampoos and creams for preventing fungal infections in pets. Restrict their entry in your bedrooms.
Ringworm of the feet is difficult to get rid of so make sure you use the medicines as directed. If the rash does not improve, appears to worsen or is accompanied by fever or blistering visit your health care provider promptly.