Monday, January 9, 2012

Health Care and Athlete's Foot

Ever have that itchy feeling between your toes? Have you ever been tempted to take your shoes and socks off, even in public, to scratch those tender areas between those digits at the front end of your feet? Occasionally, with the itching and burning, have you tried to medicate your feet with creams and powders to alleviate that incessant feeling? Have you even been to the doctor at some point to find relief, or just been content to try some home remedies?  That constant or intermittent feeling under your footware is commonly called Athlete's Foot.

Don't let the name fool you. Athletes aren't the only ones who get the itchy condition known as athlete's foot, according to KidsHealth.org. Anyone can get athlete's foot if two things happen:

1. Their bare feet are exposed to a kind of fungus.
2. That fungus has the right environment to grow — like hot and sweaty sneakers!

A fungus is a microorganism. Athlete's foot, or tinea pedis, is a common skin infection that is caused by a fungus, a plant-like microorganism too small to be seen by the naked eye. This fungus eats old skin cells. And plenty of them can be found on the feet! Although athlete's foot occurs mostly among teen and young adult men, kids and women can get it, too. People with sweaty or damp feet are at risk. Walking barefoot where others also walk barefoot is one way the fungus can get on your feet in the first place. That's why you should wear your sandals when you're showering in a public shower.

Why Is It Called Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot gets its name because athletes often get it. Why? The fungus that causes it can be found where athletes often are. The fungus grows on the warm, damp surfaces around pools, public showers, and locker rooms. People walk barefoot on these surfaces and fungus ends up on their feet. Or they might use a damp towel that has the athlete's foot fungus on it. But just having the fungus on your feet isn't enough to cause the infection. The infection happens if conditions are right for the fungus to grow. The fungus likes it wet, so:

•Dry your feet properly after swimming, showering, or bathing.
•Do not wear tight shoes when your feet are sweaty.
•Do not wear the same pair of shoes or socks day after day

The most common symptom is cracked, flaking, peeling skin between the toes or side of the foot, according to the US National Library of Medicine. Other symptoms can include:

•Red and itchy skin
•Burning or stinging pain
•Blisters that ooze or get crusty

If the fungus spreads to your nails, they can become discolored, thick, and even crumble. Athlete's foot may occur at the same time as other fungal skin infections such as ringworm.

A simple fungal infection such as athlete's foot can become "super-infected" with bacteria, according to eMedicineHealth.com. If this should happen, the rash will become increasingly painful and red. Your foot may become swollen, and you may develop blisters and even open sores in the infected area. These are indications that you may need oral antibiotics and will need to call your doctor. It is unlikely that athlete's foot would ever become severe enough that a trip to a hospital's emergency department is required.
 
However, if you have diabetes or any other type of illness that will make it hard for your body to fight off an infection, athlete's foot may become an emergency. If you develop severe pain, redness, or swelling, notice a puslike drainage, see large blisters or ulcers on your foot, or if you develop a fever, you should be seen as soon as possible by your doctor, who may direct you to an emergency department.

The best treatment for athlete's foot, is prevention. If you're reading this, it is likely that this particular step of treatment has either been passed, or has not worked--keep reading! Once you do get rid of athlete's foot, you're going to want to know how to prevent it from happening again in the future.

•Wear sandals in the locker room. Make sure they have a non-stick sole so you won't have to search the Internet for information on caring for broken bones...

•Wear cotton socks, and change them often. Once you're done sweating, clean off and put on a fresh pair. If you're shoes are wet or sweaty, make sure you dry them before lacing up again.

•Wash your feet and dry them well. Fungi from athlete's foot will live in a warm, moist environment. If you keep your feet dry, they will have a hard time enjoying you. Application of a talc powder can help keep your feet dry over the course of the day.

The best treatment for a simple case of athlete's foot is an over-the-counter medication. Ask the pharmacist to direct you towards a medication for athlete's foot (not necessarily the most expensive), and be diligent about applying the medication. You'll have to do this for at least several weeks, twice a day, for athlete's foot treatment to be effective. Of course, also perform the above recommendations, in addition to applications of the medication, according to the American Family Physician.

According to the Mayo Clinic, There are numerous over-the-counter (OTC) medications on the market. Medicated powders also will help keep your feet dry. OTC medications include:

--Butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
--Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
--Miconazole (Desenex, Zeasorb, others)
--Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
--Tolnaftate (Tinactin, Ting, others)

If athlete's foot is severe or doesn't respond to over-the-counter medicine, you may need a prescription-strength topical or oral medication.

--Topical medications: These include clotrimazole and miconazole.
--Oral medications: These include itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan) and terbinafine (Lamisil). Side effects from oral medications include gastrointestinal upset, rash and abnormal liver function. Taking other medications, such as antacid therapies for ulcer disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may interfere with the absorption of these drugs. Oral medications for athlete's foot may alter the effectiveness of warfarin, an anticoagulant drug that decreases the clotting ability of your blood. Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help clear up blisters or soggy skin.

Consult Your Podiatrist: If an apparent fungus condition does not respond to proper foot hygiene and self care, and there is no improvement within two weeks, consult your podiatrist. The podiatrist will determine if a fungus is the cause of the problem. If it is, a specific treatment plan, including the prescription of antifungal medication, applied topically or taken by mouth, will usually be suggested.

Such a treatment appears to provide better resolution of the problem, when the patient observes the course of treatment prescribed by the podiatrist; if it's shortened, failure of the treatment is common.
According to the American Podiatric Medical Association (APMA), if the infection is caused by bacteria, antibiotics, such as penicillin, that are effective against a broad spectrum of bacteria may be prescribed. Your podiatric physician/surgeon has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and treatment of all manner of foot conditions. This training encompasses all of the intricately related systems and structures of the foot and lower leg including neurological, circulatory, skin, and the musculoskeletal system, which includes bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

Typically, if treated properly, most cases of Athlete's Foot will go away within 2-4 weeks. If symptoms persist, it's definitely time to visit a physician. Don't wait if you are dealing with this infection and you have diabetes or a weakened immune system, as the results can be detrimental to your overall health. The need to take care of your feet is critical if you want to minimize discomfort and not suffer any more severe medical issues.
 
Until next time.

No comments: