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 Athlete's foot is a very common skin condition - many people will develop it at least once in their lives. It occurs mostly among teenage and adult males, and is much less common in women and in children under the age of 12. Athlete's foot can usually be easily treated, but even after successful treatment, it may come back again.   

Athlete's foot is a fungus infection of the feet. The correct term for athlete's foot is linea pedis. The germs that cause it are called fungi. They are tiny plant-like cells that can grow and multiply on human skin. The fungi grow best in a dark, moist and warm environment.

Why does athlete's foot develop?   

Moisture, sweating and poor ventilation of the feet are the perfect setting for the fungus of athlete's foot to grow. Sweaty feet, tight shoes/socks, not drying one's feet well after swimming, bathing, or exercising all contribute to the development of athlete's foot.   

Athlete's foot is contagious and you can catch it from walking barefoot in the locker room. However, it is not known exactly who is at risk for getting athlete's foot.

What does athlete's foot look like?   

Athlete's foot may not have the same appearance for everyone. In some people, the skin between the toes (especially the last two toes) peels, cracks and scales. For others, there is redness, scaling and even blisters on the soles and along the sides of the feet. These skin changes can also be caused by other medical conditions like contact dermatitis and psoriasis. Athlete's foot may also produce itching and burning of the feet.    

Fungal infections of the toenails can also occur and be difficult to treat. Toenail infactions cause scaling, crumbling, thickening and even loss of the nails. These changes can also result from other conditions such as psoriasis, injury and aging.   

All rashes on the feet are not athlete's foot. Using over-the-counter antifungal preparations on a rash that is not athlete's foot may make your condition worse. You should see a dermatologist if over-the-­counter medications do not clear the condtion or if it becoems worse.  Your dermatologist can correctly diagnose the condition and prescribe an effective medication. Untreated, athlete's foot can result in skin blisters and cracks that may lead to secondary bacterial infections.  

How is athlete's foot diagnosed?   

Your dermatologist will examine your feet thoroughly. This examination may include a scraping of the scaly area from the skin on your feet. The skin scales are then examined under a microscope to look for the tiny fungi or placed in a test tube to look for growth of the fungus.  

How is athlete's foot treated?    

Once the fungus is diagnosed, treatment can begin immediately. For simple cases, anti-fungal creams are effective and can relieve symptoms such as burning and itching fairly quickly. In more severe cases,or if your infection is resistant to usual treatment, then antifungal pills may be prescribed. Toenail infections may be difficult to treat and require several months on an oral oantifungal medicine. It's important to continue the use of your prescribed antifungal creams and to take all the oral medication so the fungus infections won't come back. While your skin may look better, the infection can remain active for some time and could get worse again if you stop your treatment before completion.  

What is the best way to prevent athlete's foot?    

You can help prevent athlete's foot by following some simple rules:    

·         Wash your feet daily.   

·         Dry your feet thoroughly, especially between your toes.   

·        Avoid tight footwear, especially in the summer. Sandals and "flip-flops" are the best warm weather footwear.   

·         Wear cotton or synthetic running socks which absorb sweat and change the socks daily or more frequently if they become damp.   

·         Dust an antifungal powder on your feet and into your shoes in the summertime.