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Athlete’s foot

Woman tying her shoe laces on her pink trainers while working out.

Athlete's foot, a prevalent fungal infection, is known for its persistence and discomfort. The infection’s symptoms include itchy white patches between the toes, sore and flaky patches, redness (sometimes less apparent on darker skin tones), cracked skin, and even fluid-filled blisters. Left untreated, it can progress, impacting toenails and causing fungal nail infections.

Fortunately, there are accessible treatments available, typically found in the form of creams, sprays, or powders, all obtainable from your local pharmacy. However, recurrence is common, so treatment needs to be persistent.

Symptoms and Treatment

The telltale signs of Athlete's foot, including persistent itching and discomfort, often prompt individuals to seek over-the-counter remedies. Anti-fungal medications, available as creams, sprays, or powders, are effective in most cases, yet the choice of treatment might not be right for certain individuals so you might need to try multiple treatments to find one that works for you. It's advisable to consult a pharmacist to find the most suitable option. Patience is crucial as these medications usually take a few weeks to show noticeable results.

Woman's trainers being shown at the gym

Self-Care Practices

In conjunction with pharmacy treatments, maintaining good foot hygiene is essential. Simple practices like thoroughly drying feet after washing (making sure to dry in between the toes), using separate towels, changing socks daily (preferably cotton), and allowing feet to breathe without confining shoes aid in preventing recurrence. You should also avoid scratching affected areas, as this can spread the infection. Additionally, wearing footwear, such as flip-flops, in communal areas like showers or changing rooms, and refraining from sharing personal items like towels and shoes, are advisable preventive measures.

Seeking Medical Attention

Chiropodists working on some older feet.

While over-the-counter treatments suffice for many cases, there are instances where seeing your GP may be required. Seeking a doctor's advice is necessary if pharmacy treatments prove ineffective, or if the discomfort intensifies. Particularly, if there are signs of severe infection like excessive redness, pain, or if the infection is spreading to other body parts, consulting a healthcare professional in this case is crucial. Individuals with diabetes or weakened immune systems should also seek prompt medical guidance due to potential complications.

A medical professional, upon examination, might conduct further tests by analysing a small skin scraping or prescribing additional treatments. This could include a combination of anti-fungal and steroid creams or even anti-fungal tablets for more severe cases. Referral to a dermatologist might be necessary for specialised care and extensive treatment if the infection persists or worsens.

Preventive Measures

Understanding how Athlete's foot spreads is vital in preventing its occurrence. The infection transfers through contact with affected skin or walking barefoot in areas where the fungus thrives, such as damp communal spaces like showers or changing rooms. Individuals with excessively sweaty feet or compromised skin are at a higher risk. You should also avoid re-wearing socks, especially after exercise as the damp, warm environment allows the fungus to thrive.

Though Athlete's foot can be bothersome and recurrent, it is manageable with appropriate care and treatment. While over-the-counter solutions are often effective, seeking medical advice becomes necessary for severe cases or for those with underlying health conditions. By maintaining good foot hygiene and adhering to preventive measures, the likelihood of recurrence can be significantly reduced. Early intervention and a proactive approach to foot health are key in managing and preventing this common fungal infection.


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