Treat ath­lete’s foot to avoid more prob­lems

The Prince George Citizen - - Health -

Per­haps the skin in be­tween your toes is itchy. Or the skin on the sides of your feet is flak­ing and ir­ri­tated.

These are clas­sic signs of ath­lete’s foot. Doc­tors call it tinea pedis and it’s a com­mon fun­gal in­fec­tion, af­fect­ing 15 to 25 per cent of peo­ple at any one time.

“It’s flaky dead skin over­ly­ing red­ness,” says Adam Fried­man, a der­ma­tol­o­gist at Ge­orge Wash­ing­ton Univer­sity School of Medicine and Health Sciences. Skin be­tween the toes may look white and soggy, the soles of the foot are more likely to be dry and flaky, and red­den­ing and blis­ter­ing can ap­pear any­where.

Still it might be some­thing else - pso­ri­a­sis and eczema can look a lot like ath­lete’s foot.

So how can you be sure you have ath­lete’s foot? Do you need to see a doc­tor for di­ag­no­sis and treat­ment?

“Most peo­ple want to treat ath­lete’s foot,” says Shari Lip­ner, a der­ma­tol­o­gist at Weill Cor­nell Medicine in New York.

Even when the itch­ing and burn­ing symp­toms are very mild, the con­di­tion is un­sightly. Also, the fungus can in­vade the nail – and nail fungus is much harder to treat, Lip­ner says.

But you don’t nec­es­sar­ily need to see a doc­tor. It’s OK to try an over-the-counter prod­uct on your own. Look for those that con­tain an an­ti­fun­gal med­i­ca­tion such as terbinafin­e (Lamisil), clotri­ma­zole (Lotrimin), tol­naf­tate (Ti­n­actin), mi­cona­zole (Mi­catin), or un­de­cylenic acid (Cruex). Other prod­ucts, such as those con­tain­ing tea tree oil or “nat­u­ral” salts, have lit­tle ev­i­dence to back their use, Lip­ner says.

“Gen­er­ally, we rec­om­mend treat­ing for about a month,” Lip­ner says.

But if your symp­toms don’t im­prove af­ter a cou­ple of weeks, you should prob­a­bly see a doc­tor.

Fried­man says even doc­tors can­not al­ways iden­tify ath­lete’s foot cor­rectly. He says he found that der­ma­tol­o­gists look­ing at still im­ages may make er­rors in iden­ti­fy­ing var­i­ous skin con­di­tions. And er­rors can have con­se­quences. Steroid creams, for ex­am­ple, might be ap­pro­pri­ate for eczema but can make ath­lete’s foot worse.

Der­ma­tol­o­gists can di­ag­nose ath­lete’s foot by tak­ing fun­gal cul­tures or do­ing a two-minute in-of­fice pro­ce­dure, called a potassium hy­drox­ide (KOH) test.

The fungi in­volved are usu­ally one of two species of Tri­chophy­ton, ei­ther rubrum or men­ta­gro­phytes.

“Our skin cells are foie gras to them,” Fried­man says. “These or­gan­isms just like the top layer of skin.” But when fungus take up res­i­dence on the sur­face, he says, “They can open the door to bac­te­ria and other in­fec­tions to cross the bar­rier.”

For in­stance, ath­lete’s foot might start out scaly red, but if it be­comes red, swollen and painful, it’s a warn­ing sign of some­thing else. In­flam­ma­tion might in­di­cate a bac­te­rial in­fec­tion, even a se­ri­ous one such as cel­luli­tis.

Un­treated ath­lete’s foot means you’re har­bour­ing fun­gal growth. That fungus can spread to the toe­nails to cause a con­di­tion called ony­chomy­co­sis - or more sim­ply, toe­nail fungus.

“With nail fungus, it’s even more im­por­tant to see a board-cer­ti­fied der­ma­tol­o­gist,” Lip­ner says. “Lots of things make the nails look ab­nor­mal. About 50 per cent of the time, it’s nail fungus.”

Over-the-counter oint­ments, pow­ders and sprays don’t work against nail fungus. Typ­i­cally, this con­di­tion is treated with oral an­ti­fun­gal med­i­ca­tions, or one of the newer top­i­cal prepa­ra­tions, which are pricey and by pre­scrip­tion only.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Canada

© PressReader. All rights reserved.