15 questions about an athlete's foot (Tinea pedis)

1) What is an athlete's foot?
An athlete's foot is a very common infection of the epidermis of the foot and/or toenails by mould. Approximately 10 to 15% of the adults are suffering from this.

2) Where could you get an athlete's foot?
The most common area is at the feet. An athlete's foot often starts between the toes. Most of the times between little toe and its neighbour. The toenails can be affected too. For that matter, the whole foot could suffer.

3) How do you recognize an athlete's foot?
An athlete's foot can be determined by softening, flaking and/or reddish glowing of the skin, itching or blisters. If you do not take actions it could become painful because of small scratches in the skin. The nails show a yellowish colour and they become crumbly.

4) Is there one special kind of mould responsible?
No, there are several species that can cause trouble, in combination or on their own.

5) How can a diagnose be made with certainty?
The doctor could use a microscope, culture or fluorescent light, if needed, to determine which kind of mould is responsible. Overall, the kind of mould does not determine the remedy.

6) How do I get an athlete's foot?
The athlete's foot is a contagious infection that is transmitted from individual to individual. A popular site of transmission is the shower at swimming pools and sports accommodations and other places where people go on bare feet. Rough springboards are unsuspected but hard to clean surfaces that also fit into the category of places of risk. But also the bowling alley and private surroundings can be a source of infection.

7) Are there any more specific risk factors?
Yes, there is dampness, perspiring feet, (too) small badly ventilated shoes and socks of non-absorbing material. Damaging of the nail also means extra risk. Possibly there is a genetical risk as well, so that one person has more trouble than the other.

8) Whenever I suspect a mould what should I do?
Best thing to do is visiting a doctor. However you could get medicine through the local pharmacy, they are often ineffective, especially on mould to the nails (chalk nails).

9) What will the doctor do?

First he or she will check if there really is a mould. In case of an infection of the skin, anti-mould cream or tincture is prescribed mostly. In case of a nail infection pills will be prescribed. This is because cream and tincture are unable to reach the nail bed through the nail. Sometimes, if the pills are not tolerated, it could be necessary to remove the nail so as to treat the nail bed with an anti-mould cream or tincture afterwards.

10) How long will it take to heal?
It depends on the severeness of the situation. A new infection between the toes could be gone within a week. If it is about an "old" infection of the large toe one can expect a one years cure.

11) How can I prevent an athlete's foot?
* The most important way of prevention is wearing bathing shoes in common shower and sauna and changing room.
* After taking a shower, dry your feet well, especially between the toes.
* Treat perspiring feet with drying powder.
* Avoid wooden and cork floors in showers.
* Preferably wear socks of cotton or other fluid-absorbing materials.
* Change your socks each day
* Wear well-fitting, ventilated shoes.
* If you share shoes with others, treat them with anti-mould powder between use.

12) If I take the previously announced precautions, is there no more risk for me?
No, as soon as you break your nail, for example, the risk of a mould getting hold is increasing. By taking the above measurements the risk will get smaller though.

13) If I treat my athlete's foot will I be free of it?
No, unfortunately moulds are everywhere and re-infection is well possible. So one should finish the cure carefully and take on the needed hygiene. The treatment will often be needed to continue, even though the symptoms have already passed.

14) Is there any extra advice?
No, actually there is not. Good hygiene and keeping on the lookout for complaints should come naturally to everyone. One extra thing might be not to stick with it for too long and prevent other family members getting infected.

15) Finally?
Prevention is better than cure. So: always take mules with you and use them too.

Listen to your body, that is your best advisor.

Live Long and Prosper!