Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin of the feet.

Hi, I’m Doctor Joe.

It’s called athlete’s foot but in actual fact it’s not particularly specific to athletes and in fact it isn’t even specific to people who do exercise. However, sweating may be a predisposing factor to this sort of infection. It’s not a harmful condition, I think that’s an important point to make and even though it is infectious, in as much as it’s caused by a fungus, it’s generally not regarded as particularly contagious. You sort of almost have to go a little bit out of your way to catch athlete’s foot from another person.

There are a lot of stories about catching it in showers and whilst people have sort of at times shown that that can be the case, if the fungus does happen to sit on the floor of the shower, there are other arguments that say you can’t really catch it that way. So I wouldn’t really be too concerned one way or the other, and if people have genuine concerns or certainly if you do have an infection on your foot or you are in a public facility, then it’s probably a good idea to wear thongs on your feet when you are in the shower. But again, I do emphasise that the jury is a little bit out on that one.

Okay, so essentially athlete’s foot is a fungal infection, it’s caused generally by a fungus called a dermatophyte. Usually tests don’t need to be done for it because number 1 you don’t always grow the fungus anyway and number 2, whether you do or you don’t, treatment is pretty much the same. Most of the treatments are available over the counter so it’s not the sort of thing that often finds its way into the GP’s surgery.

There are a number of anti-fungal creams and preparations that are available from the chemist, and which one is best? I don’t think one can say one is best. There are creams, there are lotions, there are sprays that can be used. People have their personal preference with these things.

It is important to, after you’ve had a bath or a shower, to dry the feet quite thoroughly and that includes drying between the toes. Now you want to do this gently and not rub the foot too vigorously because if the skin is already inflamed that may make it a little bit sore.

Typically athlete’s foot is not a painful condition. It can be itchy but generally speaking it’s just something that you see. The skin looks a little bit red and it can look a bit dry and flaky. So keeping the foot dry is important.

The reason why it got the term athlete’s foot is because athletes that were wearing running type shoes, particularly for extended periods of time and obviously being quite physical, their foot does tend to sweat a little but more and it’s that moist wet environment that does enable the fungus to multiply a little bit more easily. But it’s not directly caused by any form of sport or physical activity. So you know, if you are wanting to exercise, please don’t in any way let a little bit of a rash stop you from doing so.

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It is relatively simple to treat but it can take a period of time to settle down so you may need to be at it for a couple of weeks. If about three to four weeks have gone by and you’ve gone nowhere, then it’s probably worth having a chat with your doctor. It can be a bit resistant but that is more the exception that the rule.

One other important point to make is that even if you treat it, it is possible to get it again. But again if that is the case well obviously you can treat it at some future time.

So to sum up, athlete’s foot, a fungal infection of the skin of the feet, not harmful, little bit of a nuisance, relatively straight forward to treat and simple preventative measures like keeping the skin of the feet dry after you’ve been in the shower or bath can be helpful too.

More information

Dr_Joe_100x100 For information on fungal infections on nails, watch Dr. Joe’s video Fungal Infection.
To learn more about the skin and its functions, visit Human Skin.

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