All You Need to Know about Athlete’s Foot
Firstly, you don’t need to be a professional or amateur athlete, or be a regular at the gym to fall victim to this common affliction, an affliction that it is wholly indiscriminate by age or gender. Everyone, at some time or another will be vulnerable to this infection. With that said, men generally do have a greater sufferance with athlete’s foot than women. This is largely due to the established culture of men’s traditional footwear style.
A recent NHS study revealed that within the United Kingdom, at any one time, there are between 15% and 25% of people suffering with athlete’s foot. Given the population, that equates to up to an astonishing 16.5 million people. The variance in the level of sufferance is seasonal. The warmer, drier months increases the number of infected victims. This is due to the increase in leisure time being spent out of doors with many people taking advantage of this and going bare foot.
Are There High-Risk Groups Susceptible to Infection?
Of course, some people will be more vulnerable than others in falling victim to athlete’s foot. Public swimming pools have, by their very nature, potentially ideal circumstances in which athletes’ foot can be contracted and spread. The same can be said for the gym and the changing rooms used by athletes. In the communal areas of swimming pools, locker rooms and showers it is always advisable to wear appropriate footwear.
But there are less obvious high-risk situations. Enjoying the lazy summer days outside, bare foot. Being on holiday, basking in the sun, cavorting by the pool, such innocent pastimes leave your feet exposed to a massive amount of potential infections, athlete’s foot included. So, think about your feet, use suitable footwear.
When you make that magnanimous gesture of allowing your best friend to borrow your designer trainers you have entered the risk area of cross-contamination. In fact, it is never a good idea to share any item of clothing with another person, especially any form of footwear. The same can be said for borrowing another person’s towel, in doing so you immediately raise the risk of infection.
You may borrow or lend body talcum powders, lotions or moisturizers, again the potential risk of infection rises. The containers of such products can easily act as a vehicle for athlete’s foot fungi, and thus cross-contamination. Although these actions seem innocent and harmless, it is always better to avoid the practice.
So, What Exactly is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection which is easily transferred from one person to another, be it through direct or indirect contact. Fungai, just like bacteria, are everywhere. They exist as part of our lives, on and in our bodies, in our clothes and in our homes. Our entire living environment is a potential breeding ground for fungi. Up to now, science has identified over 5 million species.
Of course, not all fungi are harmful to us, in the same way that not all bacteria are harmful. There are harmful fungi and there are beneficial fungi, after all we use yeast to make bread, and mushrooms are consumed the world over, both of which are fungi. However, scientists have identified around 300 different fungi which we now know to be harmful to humans, some of which can give us the condition we know as Athlete’s foot.
The 3 most common fungi that we associate with athlete’s foot are: Trichophyton Rubrum, Trichophyton Mentagrophytes, and Epidermophyton Floccosum, but the condition is not confined to infection from only these 3 fungi. The fungi initially infect the outer layer of the skin, the stratum corneum. The incubation period for the fungi is generally thought to be from 4 to 10 days. It is after this incubation period that the physical signs of athlete’s foot start to manifest themselves.
It is during the incubation period that further direct or indirect infection is most likely to occur. This is simply due to the infected person passing on the fungi totally unaware of their own exposure to it. The fungi will incubate, and flourish on skin that is warm and often moist. Thus, your feet are particularly vulnerable. Closed footwear, socks and sweating create the ideal environment for the fungi to thrive.
What Should I be Looking for if I Think I Have Athlete’s Foot?
After the fungi’s incubation period, the sufferer may begin to see small dry patches of skin appear on the heels of the foot, between the toes and around the toenails. In many cases there may also be a degree of inflammation. Some sufferers, but not all, may feel these dry patches cause some irritation, compelling them to be constantly scratching the area.
As the infection takes a greater hold it is common to see a rash with flaky peeling skin. Itchy blisters often appear between the toes. Victims frequently report stinging and burning sensations from the infected area and splits in the skin. Skin splits then lead to the risk of further infections of other sorts. It is not uncommon to see the whole of the sole and sides of the foot becoming affected by the virus, this is referred to as “Moccasin Tinea”.
What Happens if I Ignore the Early Symptoms?
Be sure of one thing, athlete’s foot wont simply go away. If the condition is allowed to go untreated it is most likely that the whole of the foot will become afflicted. The splits in the skin will become more numerous, larger and deeper. The risk of a secondary infection rises dramatically.
In advanced cases the sufferer may experience bleeding, areas of skin will become white and soggy looking. There is likely to be unpleasant, odorous oozing from the blisters. The toenails can become thick and begin to crumble. The sufferer at this point, will most probably be in a high level of discomfort. The result of allowing the infection to spread uncontrolled is that a more protracted plan of treatment will be required to cure the infection and restore the feet to full health.
Once I Recognize the Symptoms What Should I Do?
Quite obviously, recognizing the symptoms is the first crucial step to a remedy. There are many over the counter remedies available. In fact, the choice can be mind boggling to the point of confusion. They will of course all proclaim to be the best cure, in truth some of these claims are, to say the very least, spurious.
With such a wide choice available, it is common for a person with athlete’s foot to find that they end up buying several different claimed remedies before they find one that starts to induce any improvement in their condition. Also, with all this product confusion the only certain result is that the final remedy is pushed back.
Not only will the lottery of available remedies likely prolong and exasperate the suffering of having the condition, but it can also become very costly. Once you have a suspicion that you may have the early stages of athlete’s foot, professional diagnosis is by far the best course of action. A skilled practitioner can very quickly diagnose the condition, and that of its severity. Singularly, the best way to do this is to visit your local, professional foot health clinic.
A professional practitioner will also be able to identify client groups that maybe negatively susceptible to particular curative products. There are several vulnerable groups of sufferers that need to exercise considerable caution in the selection of treatment for athlete’s foot. Any person that is currently taking medication for an existing condition should take advice from their local foot health practitioner (FHP).
Expectant mothers must seek expert advice as some products may be of detriment to their ongoing pregnancy. Diabetics also need to execute extreme caution before undergoing treatment for athlete’s foot. Any person that is receiving treatment for any form of cancer is also in need of their local professionals’ advice.
If I Am Diagnosed with Having Athlete’s Foot, How Will it be Treated?
The treatments used for athlete’s foot by a skilled practitioner can be many and varied, a lot will depend on the severity, and how far advanced the infection has become. Your local professional will be able to customize treatment and select appropriate products for each client based on a case by case basis.
Are Anti-Fungal Creams an Efficient Cure?
Anti-fungal creams are a popular choice amongst practitioners, and have a long-proven track record as a successful treatment. There is a multitude of anti-fungal products on the market, but they all work in a similar way. The active properties in the anti-fungal cream attack the cell wall of the fungi which cause the cell to leak, and thus die. The creams also inhibit reproduction of the cells.
Dependent on the individual case, your practitioner may recommend and anti-fungal cream that includes hydrocortisone. These creams have the additional effect of treating any inflammation and soreness of the infected area.
Your practitioner will select the most appropriate anti-fungal cream for each individual. However, as with any medication there can be side effects. Some of the most commonly reported side effects are, headaches, nausea and diarrhea. However, of those that experience negative side effects, the symptoms have not been severe.
Will My Athlete’s Foot Require Steroidal Treatment?
In simple terms steroids are artificially produced hormones, similar to the hormones that are naturally produced in the body by the adrenal glands. The objective in using steroidal products is to raise the level of hormones in the body to exceed that which the body would naturally produce. With professional assessment and application these higher levels of hormones can have a positive effect on a variety of complaints.
It is not uncommon for practitioners to combine the use of anti-fungal creams with steroidal creams. If the sufferer is experiencing soreness and irritation from the infected area, steroid creams can have additional positive advantages in the relief of these symptoms. Although, if you have had an early diagnosis of athlete’s foot, then steroid creams are less likely to be required as part of your treatment.
The side effects of using steroidal creams as a compliment to another athlete’s foot treatment are not common. Significant side effects of using steroidal creams are only apparent after prolonged use. Steroids, in any form, should only be used as long-term medication with the advice of a doctor, and your professional FHP would never advise the use of steroids in the longer term.
After My Condition Has Been Cured, Will I Need Preventative Treatment?
Ordinarily, preventative treatment should not be required. However, once your athlete’s foot has cleared up, don’t be lulled into thinking that is the end of the story. It could simply be a false dawn. Although the condition may appear to be cured, it can flare up again. It is important that you follow the recommendations of your FHP after the initial treatment and for the period of time they advise, even if your symptoms have disappeared.
How Can I Prevent Being Infected and Contracting Athlete’s Foot?
Nobody will argue against prevention being better than cure. Feet often get overlooked in terms of this proverb. And yet, along with our hands, they are parts of the body that take a lot of punishment and are extremely susceptible to injury and infection. With a little thought and care you can vastly reduce your vulnerability to contracting Athlete’s foot.
Your feet should be washed thoroughly on a daily basis. Drying your feet properly, particularly between the toes is essential to maintain healthy feet. Perhaps you frequent the gym, if so, wear appropriate footwear in the locker rooms. In any circumstance or location, avoid walking bare foot.
Alternate the shoes that you wear, this allows shoes to fully dry out before being worn again, and always wear clean socks. Also, never share footwear with other people, you may think this is a kind and generous act, but it raises your risk of fungal infection immensely.
Where Can I Go to Get a Professional Diagnosis?
If you are seeking treatment for athlete’s foot there is no need to seek out a glossy, glitzy, celebrity style clinic found in the major cities. After all, such places do have a price tag. More people are beginning to look for localized treatment that encompasses all aspects of our health. Our research shows an increasing number of regional foot health clinics opening up in all areas of the country. They are local, convenient and affordable.
Up and down the country local, private clinics operate with professional staff that are forward thinking. They, within their practices, embrace the advancing therapy techniques and products that have created efficient treatments for all manner of complaints. Due to these local clinics, more and more people have access to a modern, efficient practice.
Summing Up Our Research
We’ve discovered that the stereotypical image of a clinic no longer applies. No more is there the aroma of a sterile, anesthetic laden atmosphere. The stern and starched staff with a matter of fact attitude have long since been consigned to history. Now a warm, friendly and welcoming approach prevails whilst embracing the technical modernity of the profession.
Since 2015 the number of foot health practitioners practicing in the country has been steadily rising. There are now many of them, with the majority of this increase working in private, local clinics. Leicestershire in particular now has a very high standard of skilled foot health practitioners. For any health issue, it makes perfect sense to have local facilities.
Fortunately, there has been an increase in the number of local private, foot health clinics around the country. With up to 16.5 million people falling victim to athlete’s foot, this is good news. Using a local clinic saves time, money and has a far more personal feel for the client.
It is clear that many local clinics throughout the country have evolved into having a modern, enlightened attitude to foot health. Local clinics serving their local region, often by local people, are much preferred to anonymous, far flung practices. Many of these local clinics have modern facilities, expert transport links and professional dedication.
Choose your local foot health clinic carefully. Although there is now a greater choice than there ever has been. We advise that you always check the credentials of the practicing FHP that you are considering consulting.
Look for their membership of the leading British professional associations. The British Association of Foot Health Professionals (MAFHP) and the College of Foot Health Professionals (MCFHP). Practitioners who are members of either, or both of these associations, are trained to work to exemplary standards of treatment, clinical hygiene and client care.
So, if you suspect that you may have been unfortunate enough to have contracted athlete’s foot, first think local. Secondly, check for professional standards then you can seek diagnosis and treatment with peace of mind. There is sure to be local professional practitioners in your area.
The Loughborough area of Leicestershire is particularly well serviced by feet@theclinic. This is a dedicated, modern clinic with skilled practitioners which has excellent transport links to the whole of Leicestershire and beyond. If you suspect that you may have contracted athlete’s foot, contact feet@theclinic and get an early assessment of your condition and professional treatment.