Whether you’re an athlete or just like to visit the local pool for a little recreation, you may be at risk for a fungal infection in your feet. Fungi are microscopic organisms that love to eat dead skin, hair, and toenails. Sounds yummy, doesn’t it? Knowing what a fungal infection looks like, how you contract it, and what to do about it can help arm you against this irritating and unsightly problem.
When fungi attack the skin of your feet, you will often end up with a condition called athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis. Infected feet will have red, peeling skin that may itch or burn and sometimes form blisters or sores. It is a very common skin ailment. You get it when your feet are exposed to the fungi that live all around us. The most common type of athlete’s foot fungi is trichophyton rubrum. These organisms do especially well in places that are warm and wet, which is why community pools, showers, and saunas can be full of them. However, they live just as well in your shower at home, or on damp towels you leave on the bathroom floor. They thrive on sweaty feet that are closed up in shoes and socks for long periods of time. Three common types of athlete’s foot infection are:
Interdigital – a fungus that grows between your 4th and 5th toes, causing itching, burning, and moist skin that flakes off; it can spread from there to other parts of your foot.
Moccasin – the fungus affects the sole of your foot, causing dry, scaly skin that thickens and cracks; this type can also move up the sides of your foot.
Vesicular – a rarer type of infection that causes blisters usually under your foot, but can be found in any part of the foot or toes.
Uncontrolled athlete’s foot can spread to the toenails, leading to fungal toenails, or onychomycosis. You can also pick up the fungi (a group called dermatophytes) directly by exposure to areas where they live. Any tiny, invisible break in the skin or separation between skin and nail is enough for the fungus to move in. The infection may first appear as a small white or yellow spot, but as the fungi feed on the dead tissue the infection expands until your nails become thick, dull, discolored, and crumbly. They may also be painful and give off an unpleasant odor.
If your feet perspire a lot, your socks and shoes don’t breathe and begin to hold moisture against your skin. If you have a condition like diabetes, poor blood circulation, or just a weak immune system, your risk for developing a fungal infection in your nails increases. The more likely candidates for getting this problem are senior citizens and men.
Relief at Last
At the first sign of infection in your feet or nails, let Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. take a look at your foot. We can tackle the problem—together. There are topical creams, lotions, powders, sprays, or nail lacquers for mild infections. Oral antifungal medications are available, if needed. We also have cutting-edge laser therapy for difficult cases of fungal nails.
Your part will be to follow the directions for consistent use of the medications. You must also keep your feet as clean and dry as possible, trim your nails properly, and wear protective footwear in public gyms, showers, or pools to avoid reinfection. It is important to treat your shoes with antifungal sprays or powder and wear styles that let your toes air out.
Watch our video on laser fungal nail therapy to learn more about this effective treatment. You can also call Mark Gasparini, D.P.M. or enter any questions you have on our contact us page. We are here to help! Call our office in Massapequa, NY at (516) 804-9038. Say hello to great foot care and say goodbye to fungi!