Just about anybody can catch athlete’s foot. It is not as the name suggests limited to those with an athletic disposition. It is a common persistent fungal infection of the foot. It usually starts between the cleft of the fourth and fifth toes, but can easily spread to between the other toes and other parts of the foot and nails.

The fungus thrives best in warm, moist enclosed conditions. The foot when in a shoe can be all of these and beyond that the pockets or clefts between the toes are even more enclosed. It is for this reason that such importance is given to the drying of the feet especially between the toes. These therefore provide an ideal breeding ground for the microscopic spores that cause Athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is highly contagious and can be easily passed from wet floors, used towels, socks and shoes, (walking barefoot in changing rooms should be avoided). The fungus is very resilient and can lie dormant in shoes for weeks beyond visible external symptoms have subsided.

The most common fungus or dermatophyte that causes athlete’s foot is Trichophytum Rubrum, which is also common in nail infections.

Signs and Symptoms

1. Intense itching between the toes, usually the 3rd, 4th and 5th toes, this is known as inter-digital athlete’s foot.

2. In ulcerative athlete’s foot the peeling of the skin worsens and cracks may develop, this can result in secondary bacterial infections.

3. The peeling of skin or cracking between the toes.

4. Red and inflamed skin in which a series of raised bumps or ridges develop. Intense itching and a watery discharge may develop.

5. A red rash across the bottom of the foot, the skin becomes dense and scaly resembling a ‘moccasin’, which is why this type is known as ‘moccasin or plantar athlete’s foot’.

It is important to follow the advice on general foot and nail health in order to prevent Athlete’s foot and its recurrence. If you have Athlete’s foot it should be, where possible, treated as soon as any signs or symptoms appear.

Athlete’s foot infections may disappear of their own accord however can also persist for years. They are difficult to treat and may recur. Best results are normally obtained on early treatment before the fungus becomes established.