Athlete’s foot - Fungal foot and Toenail infections

Fungal foot infections are a very common condition. I still remember seeing my doctor and applying foot cream when growing up as a competitive swimmer. Everyone in the squad had to deal with foot fungus at some point. This very common and mild type of skin infection is named athlete’s foot as it is generally seen in people who, such as athletes, may have a tendency to sweat in their footwear, creating the perfect moist and closed environment were fungus thrive.

 

Despite the name, athlete’s foot can happen to anyone. It results in the skin becoming red, flaky, cracked and itchy. The areas affected are the sole and the skin between the toes. It is different from a verruca which is another type of fungal infection that appears as a localised area of thick skin.

 

It is not a condition I normally see in my clinics as it is mostly seen and treated by GPs or podiatrists, but my patients often ask about it. At times I have diagnosed skin corns and callosities that were thought to be verrucas or athlete’s foot and vice versa.

 

Home remedies for athlete’s foot

  • Prevention is better than cure, and given that the infection is contracted when walking barefoot in public wet areas, it is recommended to wear sandals or flip-flops when waling in swimming pools, spas, gyms or public showers. 
  • At the end of the activity, wash your feet with soap and get them completely dry before putting on your socks or shoes. 
  • Pay attention to the type of socks you wear, with materials that allow transpiration and don’t keep moisture in. Alternate shoes or ensure they are completely dry if they got wet the day before.
  • Do not share towels, bed linen or shoes with someone who may have athlete’s foot.
  • Talcum powder will help keep your feet dry
  • Sea salt baths have antibacterial and antifungal properties. Feet must be dried thoroughly when finished soaking.


Athlete’s foot treatment

Antifungal creams are the best treatment for the condition and there are a number of presentations, the most popular one being Lamisil cream (Terbinafine is the generic name), but they can also come in the form of oils or sprays and with other drug compositions. 

 

A very different type of fungal infection is one that affects the toenails. A fungal nail can appear in conjunction with athlete’s foot or in isolation. Depending on the fungus causing the infection the nail changes can vary with nail discolouration, white spots, debris under the nail and thickening nails. 

 

Nail fungus are much harder to treat and get rid of. It may be that a sample has to be collected and examined in the lab to diagnose the specific cause of the problem. The initial treatment for fungal toenails include local antifungals, oral tablets, or a combination of both. Laser treatment for toenail fungus has also shown good results. If the infection in the nail is severe, it might be recommended that the nail is removed. This can be done by applying a chemical to make the nail fall off or by surgical nail removal. The nail will grow back but it might take 12 to 18 months for a toenail to grow out.


If you think you are suffering from a fungal foot or a fungus infection in your feet get in touch with a medical specialist so that the diagnosis can be confirmed and the appropriate treatment implemented.