Athlete's foot (Tinea pedis)

Athlete's foot (Tinea pedis)

Basics

Athlete's foot (technically called tinea pedis) is an infection with skin fungi (dematophytes) on the foot. In more than 90% of cases, athlete's foot is caused by the pathogen Trichophyton rubrum. It is one of the most common infectious diseases in Central Europe - for example, in Germany it is estimated that about 10% of the population (preferably men) are infected.

Causes

The fungus is mostly transmitted indirectly from person to person. The mechanism of transmission is that the barefoot person loses fungal skin flakes with every step, which can settle on the next barefoot person and subsequently trigger athlete's foot there as well. In the skin of the soles of the feet and especially between the toes, there are ideal warm, moist conditions for the fungus, which favour further multiplication. In the course of this, the symptoms typical of athlete's foot develop.

Due to the transmission through skin flakes, the risk of infection is greatly increased, especially in places where many people walk barefoot. Examples include swimming pools, gymnasiums, sports fields, hotel rooms, saunas, showers or campsites.

Small injuries in the foot area, such as cuts, cracks or abrasions, make it much easier for the fungus to invade the body. The following groups of people are particularly frequently affected by athlete's foot:

  • Athletes (due to the high foot moisture in sneakers during sports).
  • People who wear tightly fitting shoes for occupational reasons (construction workers, soldiers, sewer workers)
  • Diabetics
  • People in whose environment athlete's foot frequently occurs
  • People who suffer from circulatory disorders of the legs
  • People with a weak immune system

Symptoms

Athlete's foot often manifests itself with an itchy or burning sensation on the feet. Furthermore, increased scaling of the skin on the soles of the feet, slight redness or small blisters can often be observed.

Especially in case of fungal infestation between the toes (interdigital mycosis) the skin there appears moist and slightly softened (maceration). The maceration now also makes it considerably easier for bacterial pathogens to penetrate the skin and thus trigger severe inflammations, such as erysipelas.

In the further course, athlete's foot can also spread to the groin and armpit area - in general, body areas with increased skin moisture are particularly at risk.

Diagnosis

The first indication of a possible fungal infection is given by the typical symptoms such as itching sensation on the foot as well as characteristic appearance with reddened, scaly skin areas.

For a reliable diagnosis, a small, superficial skin sample is taken from the edge of the infection site using a scalpel and examined under a microscope. The skin sample can also be used to create a fungal culture in the laboratory, which allows the exact type of fungus to be determined.

For a successful therapy it is important that the athlete's foot is diagnostically differentiated from other scaly skin diseases such as eczema.

Therapy

The therapy usually consists of applying an antimycotic (fungicidal agent) in the form of creams or sprays to the affected skin areas. In very severe cases of the disease, it may also be necessary to take antimycotics orally. In addition to drug treatment, great care should be taken to keep the foot and especially the spaces between the toes dry.

Clothing contaminated with fungi should be washed at least 60°C in the washing machine or with disinfectant to prevent a new infection.

Forecast

Athlete's foot can be treated very well with medication, but without therapy it usually spreads further and rarely heals on its own.

After a successful treatment, special care should be taken to prevent a new infection.

Prevent

An athlete's foot infection can be effectively prevented if the following measures are observed:

  • Pay attention to dry feet and toe spaces - before putting on socks and shoes, the feet should be dried.
  • Shoes should be disinfected regularly (especially after fungal infestation has already occurred).
  • Wearing bathing or slippers in public baths, saunas, changing rooms, hotel rooms, showers and campsites.
  • Use of breathable shoes, preferably leather shoes with leather soles.

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