Itching and dandruff on the feet are possible symptoms of athlete’s foot (tinea pedis or tinea pedum). This skin fungus disease of the feet is very contagious, but can be treated well. Without therapy, however, it can become chronic. Read more here: What causes athlete’s foot? What to do about the complaints? How does the doctor even diagnose athlete’s foot? How can you prevent him?
Short Description: Athlete’s foot
- Description: Skin fungus on the feet, usually triggered by filamentous fungi
- symptoms: Itching, dandruff, sometimes blisters and oozing
- Treatment: antifungals (antifungals) applied either externally (creams, ointments etc.) or internally (tablets)
- Trigger: moist-warm environment, weakened immune system, damaged acid mantle of the skin
- Contact Person: Dermatologist or specialist in foot diseases (podiatrist)
- Forecast: With targeted therapy, athlete’s foot usually heals completely.
Athlete’s foot – symptoms
The athlete’s foot symptoms are initially limited to the skin at the beginning of the infection. Mostly affected people feel only one itch, then reddens the skin becomes light and begins to scale, The latter always does, even in healthy people. In an athlete’s foot, however, the dissolving pieces of skin are larger and more numerous. So you can see it with the naked eye. The dandruff increases within a few days. Often whitish skin plates form on the foot, which look a bit like corneas, but are much softer.
The dander is not only unappealing. In the abraded skin, fungal spores can survive for days and be transmitted to other people.
Doing nothing at this stage against the athlete’s foot can cause cracks in the keratinized skin that hurt when walking. Sometimes wet the affected areas also or it form small bubbles, especially at the sole of the foot.
If the bubbles burst, it can also be painful. Besides, it can be easy other pathogens penetration. In this way, bacteria can cause severe skin inflammation. That can be for example one erysipelas (Erysipelas). It develops very often in athlete’s foot between the toes (Interdigitalmykose).
Forms of athlete’s foot
In the space between the toes, athlete’s foot is particularly popular. He likes the damp and warm conditions that prevail there. In addition to interdigital mycosis, there are also other forms of disease. Overall, physicians distinguish the following forms of athlete’s foot:
Athlete’s foot between the toes (interdigital form)
Here appear first symptoms between the toes, most often between the third and fourth toe. Gradually, the athlete’s foot then spreads to the other toe spaces. The affected skin is reddened and itches. On the toe sides form small bubbles. When the skin softens, bacteria can additionally settle. This is noticeable, for example, in an unpleasant odor.
Horny athlete’s foot (squamous hyperkeratotic form)
It affects mainly the soles of the feet: The athlete’s foot symptoms occur first on the ball and the heel. Then spread to the foot edges and back of the foot. The affected skin is flaky and overly heavily keratinized. Many patients simply believe that they have particularly dry skin on their feet.
Due to their location, this athlete’s foot is also called “moccasin mycosis”, whereby the term “mycosis” means fungal disease. Particularly vulnerable are diabetics.
Athlete’s foot with blisters (vesicular dyshidrotic form)
It is the rarest form of athlete’s foot. Symptoms in the form of blisters occur mainly at the foot edges and the arch of the foot. Here the cornea is pretty dic. Therefore, the bubbles do not burst, but rather dry up. In addition, sufferers complain of itching and tension on the foot.
Spread to other parts of the body
Although the name suggests otherwise: athlete’s foot does not stop there where the feet stop. If left untreated for a long time, the symptoms initially spread from the feet to the ankles. In addition, the so-called skin appendages can be affected. This is how doctors describe hair and nails. For example, a toenail fungus (onychomycosis) can develop from an athlete’s foot.
If you scratch yourself with your bare hands on the affected areas and then, for example, touch your face (for example, lips, ear), you can also transfer the fungus pathogens there. The same thing can happen if, after showering or bathing, you dry off the infected feet and the rest of the body with the same towel.
Athlete’s foot – treatment
An athlete’s foot treatment is simple in itself and allows the infection to heal completely. However, it is important that it is carried out in a timely and consistent manner. If left untreated, the fungal disease can become chronic.
In order to get rid of the athlete’s foot, the doctor prescribed the patient fungal killing, so-called antifungals, They work in different ways: Some kill off the existing fungi (fungicidal action), others inhibit the proliferation of fungi (fungistatic effect).
Commonly used antifungals in athlete’s foot terbinafine, clotrimazole, econazole,itraconazole, miconazole and bifonazole, Each of these ingredients helps especially against certain types of fungus.
At first, however, the doctor usually does not (yet) know exactly which fungus is responsible for the infection in a patient. Then he prescribes a so-called Breitspektrumantimykotikum, This works against several types of fungi at the same time. Once the exact pathogen has been identified, the athlete’s foot can be switched to an antifungal agent that specifically targets the pathogen.
How are antifungal drugs used?
On an antifungal agent applied externally or internally, depends on how far advanced the athlete’s foot is.
In the initial stage is usually sufficient one external therapy (superficial athlete’s foot) with creams, ointments, gels or powder. However, if the infection has already spread flat (possibly also on the nails), sometimes Antifungals for oral use necessary (like tablets with itraconazole or terbinafine). Such an oral-medicinal athlete’s foot therapy is often also necessary if the athlete’s foot symptoms have not improved after one to two weeks despite topical treatment with antifungals.
Whether externally or internally – the antifungals must be used regularly, just as the doctor has prescribed. For example, it may be necessary to apply an antifungal cream two to three times a day.
Patients should also follow the doctor’s instructions for the duration of the treatment. Because athlete’s foot is quite persistent. Therefore, the athlete’s foot is usually continued for three to four weeks after the symptoms have resolved. This reduces the risk of a relapse after stopping the medication.
Athlete’s foot: What helps except conventional medicine?
Many people swear Athlete’s foot home remedies like apple cider vinegar or tea tree oil. Often, however, the effectiveness of such natural remedies is not scientifically proven or well studied.
But there are many others Tipsthat can safely support the success of Athlete’s Foot Treatment:
- After your shower or bath, always dry your feet carefully (especially between your toes) before putting on socks and shoes. Use a different towel for the feet than for the rest of the body. No one else should use your “Feet Towel”.
- First, let superficial foot fungi (cream, ointment, etc.) fully penetrate the skin before putting on socks or shoes. This can take up to five minutes.
- During and after athlete’s foot care, make sure that your feet are not sweaty or damp for long periods of time.
- Change your socks daily during athlete’s foot.
- If you have an athlete’s foot, you should wash your socks at least 60 degrees, better 90 degrees.
- If necessary, use special hygiene detergents which specifically kill the pathogens.
- Change towels and linens more often than usual during a foot fungus treatment and wash them on kitchen linen.
- Also wear socks in bed at night. This will prevent transmission of the mushrooms to the bedding.
- The shoes should be sprayed regularly (best with a foot fungus treatment daily) with a disinfecting spray.
During an athlete’s foot treatment you should not go into the swimming pool or the sauna, so as not to infect your fellow human beings. Avoid other places where many people walk around barefoot. In the hotel’s own bathroom or shower affected persons should also wear slippers.
Athlete’s foot: causes and risk factors
Athlete’s foot is usually caused by filamentous fungi (dermatophytes), and usually by the type Trichophytum rubrum, This can also cause other types of skin fungus diseases and nail fungus.
Dermatophytes have special mechanisms that can damage the acid mantle of the skin and adhere to the skin cells. However, they do not invade deep skin or tissue layers. Instead, they predominantly affect the uppermost layer of the skin, the so-called cornea.
However, they usually succeed only when the immune system is weakened or the skin is damaged. Otherwise, the protective mechanisms of the skin (skin flora and acid mantle) destroy the fungal spores before they can trigger an infection.
Athlete’s foot: risk factors
There are several risk factors that favor athlete’s foot. This includes:
Infectious dander: In people suffering from athlete’s foot, the loosening skin cells also contain fungal components. If healthy people come into contact with these infected skin cells (such as when walking barefoot), there is a high probability that the athlete’s foot will be transmitted to them.
In addition, fungi can of course also be transmitted by direct body contact. Particularly endangered are people who practice martial arts such as judo (no shoes!). Skin fungi (tinea corporis) can also be passed on to humans by animals (especially rodents). In Germany, however, this is especially rare for athlete’s foot.
Risky places: Oases for athletes are, for example, swimming pools, sports halls and sports fields. There is also an increased risk of infection in hotel rooms, public shower and washrooms as well as on campsites.
Wrong shoes: Very tight shoes can become an incubator for athlete’s foot. If you often have sweaty and therefore damp feet and wear closed shoes (like sneakers), you also create an ideal habitat for mushrooms. Even people who have to wear tight-fitting shoes at work (for example, construction workers or sewer workers) are at an increased risk of athlete’s foot.
In English, Tinea pedis is also referred to as Athletes foot. Because athletes wear sneakers, which promote the formation of perspiration, and often use public showers and changing rooms. This is why they often get athlete’s foot.
Other diseases: Certain diseases can increase the susceptibility to athlete’s foot. This applies, for example, to circulatory disorders in the legs, for example as a result of diabetes. Even people with a weakened immune system or a foot deformity more often suffer from athlete’s foot. Likewise, allergic disease and atopic dermatitis increase the risk of athlete’s foot.
Family disposition: In some families, athlete’s foot can be heaped, even if the members no longer live together.
Athlete’s foot in children is much less common than in adults. Children have a thicker and significantly better blood circulation skin. This protects against a fungal infection. The most common trigger for athlete’s foot in children are sweaty feet due to incorrect footwear. The parents should therefore pay particular attention to what the offspring is wearing on their feet.
Athlete’s foot: examinations and diagnosis
For possible signs of athlete’s foot is the right contact person family doctor or a Specialist in foot diseases (Podiatrists).
The doctor first collects yours in conversation with you Medical history (anamnesis), You have the opportunity to describe your complaints exactly. With specific questions, the doctor collects additional information that may be important for the diagnosis. Possible questions include:
- When did you first notice the symptoms?
- Did you also notice skin changes elsewhere in your body?
- Have there ever been any illnesses with such symptoms in your family?
- Do you often stay in public facilities such as swimming pools or changing rooms?
After that follows one physical examination, First, the doctor looks at the feet in suspected athlete’s foot. He also takes one Skin sample (biopsy), usually on the scaly edge of a herd of infection. He examines this tissue sample under the microscope. So he can tell if it is actually athlete’s foot. Because there are also other diseases of the feet that can trigger symptoms similar to athlete’s foot.
It is important to know what type of fungus causes the infection. Only then can the doctor select that antifungals (antifungal) for the therapy that works most effectively. To determine the fungus, the extracted tissue sample is examined in the laboratory. There will be one fungal culture This means that the fungus will be kept at a temperature at which it can multiply optimally.
Until the fungal colony is so large that it can identify the pathogen accurately, it usually takes between one and four weeks. During this time, however, a (nonspecific) therapy with a broad-spectrum antifungals can be started.
Athlete’s Foot Treatment in Pregnancy
If women get athlete’s foot during pregnancy or lactation, they should consult a doctor or pharmacist before using any medication. The athlete’s foot in itself does not pose a risk to the child. However, some medications used to treat athlete’s foot should be used during pregnancy. Although a direct damaging effect of these drugs is not known. However, there are generally too few findings to correctly assess the risks. It is therefore not recommended to use these athlete’s foot medicines during pregnancy.
Athlete’s foot: course and prognosis
Athlete’s foot is generally treatable well. With timely and consistent therapy, it heals without consequences. It is therefore important to recognize and treat athlete’s foot as early as possible. Without therapy, it spreads more and more (for example, on the nails – nail fungus). The chances of a foot fungus returning by itself in the further course are extremely low.
The areas affected by athlete’s foot also form an easy entry port for bacteria. A common complication of athlete’s foot is one additional skin infection with bacteria (bacterial superinfection). This can be, for example, a Wundrose (erysipelas). This is a dermatitis in which the skin reddens, swells and hurts. Even fever can occur.
Prevent athlete’s foot
Athlete’s foot can grow well wherever it is moist and warm. Therefore, one should carefully avoid such good growth conditions on the feet. That means, for example, after swimming, bathing or showering Dry your feet carefullyespecially in the toe gaps. Parents should teach their offspring these principles of foot care as early as possible. This reduces the risk of athlete’s foot in children.
It is also important, if possible Cotton socks and Leather shoes to wear. Because socks made of synthetic materials and shoes made of plastic promote perspiration and prevent the moisture from being transported away. This quickly creates the moist and warm environment that makes athlete’s foot thrive.
To prevent athlete’s foot, you should also the Change socks daily, This is especially true if you are prone to sweaty feet.
In summer you should be as frequent as possible open shoes (like sandals) wear. Also To run barefoot Does your feet well – but not in swimming pools, saunas, public washing and changing rooms, hotel rooms and campsites! In such places, the risk of infection for athlete’s foot is particularly high. That’s why you should always be here Slippers or slippers wear.
The typical for indoor pools disinfection systems are ineffective as protection against athlete’s foot. The reason: spraying time and wetting are far too low and the substances used rather counterproductive. They can trigger allergies, attack the natural skin flora and thus open the door to infection.
Mushrooms feed on sugar. One possible low-sugar diet do it athlete’s foot Therefore, harder to attack the skin, because then less sugar is in the sweat.
- Guideline “Tinea of the Free Skin” of the German Dermatological Society and the German-speaking Mycological Society (2014)