Tinea is also known as athlete's foot or simply as a fungal infection of skin of the feet. During warmer weather, the incidence of tinea will increase as the infecting organisms thrive on warm and moist environments (such as the feet). Tinea pedis (tinea of the feet) is one of the most common fungal infections of the skin. It is rare before puberty. It may last for a short or long time and may recur after treatment. All fungi need warm, moist environments and tinea is no exception. The hottest, most sweat-prone areas of the body are the most common areas for a tinea infection - most commonly the feet, groin and beneath the breasts
Your risk for getting athlete's foot increases if you:
- Wear closed shoes, especially if they are synthetic-lined
- Have your feet wet for extended periods of time
- Sweat a lot
- Have a minor skin or nail injury
Tinea is contagious, and can be passed through direct contact, or contact with items such as shoes, stockings. Communal showers and locker rooms or pool surfaces are typical sources of infection.
How It Looks
It is believed that fungal spores grow normally on the skin surface. Under normal conditions, they are kept in balance and pose no problems. With the prescence of enough heat and sweat, the fungi can thrive and multiply by feeding on dead skin cells, and as they run out, the fungi start to eat living cells as well. Tinea pedis can be seen in three different areas of the feet and present differently in each:
- Interdigital: ("Athlete's Foot") is seen between the toes, this is the most common form of tinea pedis and is appears as soggy white tissue that often peels and erodes. The underlying skin is red and may weep.It may or may not be itchy.
- Scaly: presents as widespread white scaling, mainly seen on the soles and sides of the feet ("moccasin foot") but can spread to the top of the foot. Dry, red and itchy spots are evident.
- Vesicular: is the least common type of tinea pedis with little blisters commonly on the arch or sole of the foot. Often redness and scaling and a brown discolouration is seen with this form of tinea pedis.
The treatment for tinea pedis will be determined by the type and severity of tinea you have. It is best to seek advice from your podiatrist or doctor for the most effective therapy.
- Treatment will involve the application of an antifungal cream but in severe cases, oral medications may be needed. Antifungal creams need to be applied for at least fourteen days after you think the tinea has gone to ensure all fungi spores are gone.
- Spray the inside of your shoes with Methylated Spirits and leave them to dry thoroughly. This may need to be done once a week while symptoms are being treated. Wipe in between the toes with Methylated Spirits, using a cotton wool ball. Only do this if the skin is intact or it will be quite painful.
- Some strains have developed a resistance to common medications. In this case, a tissue sample may be taken to identify the specific organism so that the appropriate drug can be prescribed The most important aspect of the management of tinea is prevention, as recurrence is common.
- Use good hygiene and air the affected areas as much as possible. It is important to remember that tinea is contagious while you are showing symptoms of infection, even if you are using antifungal preparations. Suggestions on how to prevent the spread of infection to other members of your household include:
- Be wary of contaminating surfaces, so don't walk around barefoot
- Avoid physical contact
- Wash your hands frequently, especially after touching any infected areas
- Wash your towels and sheets separately
- Clean the shower, bath and bathroom floor thoroughly after use.
- Wash feet daily with a mild soap and dry thoroughly, particularly between the toes and within skin folds.
- Use thongs in communal showers, locker rooms around the pool.
- Don't share towels or footwear
- Regularly disinfect the shower recess at home
- Wear cotton socks and shoes with good ventilation (i.e. avoid synthetic materials which don't allow the foot to breathe)
- Allow shoes to dry after use (alternating footwear every second day)