The condition–which is also known by other names, including ringworm of the foot and the scientific tinea pedis, which literally means “moth foot”; is one of the most common infectious skin diseases affecting the feet. It involves itching and scaling between the toes and on the soles. Feet that have become infected in this way do not look in any way attractive, nor do they feel good. You get the disease when your foot becomes infected by a fungus belonging to the genus Tricophyton, which requires large amounts of moisture in order to thrive. You have probably come into contact with this fungus at some time or another—nearly everybody has–but unless you regularly engage in vigorous activity that causes you to sweat, you will not be particularly vulnerable to the disease.
Athletes, of course, sweat profusely as a result of their activity–hence the name. Other ways in which you may catch the fungus and develop the disease include walking barefoot through an area infested with it and drying yourself with a towel that has become infected.
Athlete’s foot always begins in the valleys between the toes, hence it spreads to the soles, causing them to become red and scaly and, on some occasions, develop blisters. In time, other parts of the body may also become infected, especially if they are so insulated that they become moist. Jock itch, an inflammation of the skin in the crotch area, and tiny glabrous, which affects the appendages particular, is among the diseases that can develop this way.
As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”–and athlete’s foot is one of those cases where this is quite true. Indeed, if the toenails become infected, getting rid of the disease completely can be extremely difficult. The most basic way to avoid contracting athlete’s foot is to make sure that the socks and shoes you do not fit so tightly that the moisture cannot escape easily; or avoid wearing shoes at all if you can. Never go barefoot in a public place; at the very least have sandals on your feet. Wash and dry your feet thoroughly each time you take a bath or a shower–this especially includes the toenails, which are a fertile breeding ground for disease germs–and dry your feet completely after getting out of the tub. When you launder your socks, put the water temperature setting on hot. Applying talcum powder to your soles is also an effective way of keeping the fungus away. If you need to, apply a medicine that destroys the fungus.
People can also catch athlete’s foot from those who already have it. Bowling alleys are one of the most common places where the disease spreads since the shoes are borrowed and then returned, to be worn by somebody else. Shared towels can also spread the disease, though this is less common.
There are a number of natural treatments that have been developed for athlete’s foot. The most common of these is tea tree oil, which should be applied in doses of four to ten drops, to the affected region until the signs go away, and for two weeks afterwards. You can also mix in aloe Vera gel–combine the two ingredients in a spray bottle in a ratio of four ounces gel to a half teaspoon of oil. Spray the infected area twice a day with this mixture. After your foot is completely dry, you can put on your socks and shoes. Grapefruit seed extract is also effective–put a few drops on the area two or three times a day and rub it in thoroughly. It can also be used to wash socks in the washing machine.
Other home remedies for athlete’s foot include:
- soaking the feet in vinegar (not recommended for chronic sufferers)
- rubbing and subsequent rinsing with a mixture of warm water and baking soda
- applying ajoene, which is one of the chief ingredients of garlic
- You should not use anti-itch creams; they will only aggravate the disease.
Some cases of athlete’s foot become especially severe, or become a chronic health problem. In such cases, a doctor may prescribe griseofulvin, an antifungal medication related to penicillin; or more often he will choose terbinafine. Both drugs are taken orally.