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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Athlete's Foot-16 Strategies to Beat Athlete's Foot-[Part-1]

Athlete's Foot-16 Strategies to Beat Athlete's Foot-[Part-1]

 

Blame the advertising man who misnamed it in the

1930s, but athlete's foot has nothing to do with

athletes. It's a fungal infection of the feet. Also known

as tinea pedis, or "ringworm of the feet," it has

nothing to do with worms either. The Trichophyton

fungus that causes the redness, itching, cracking, and

scaling of athlete's foot can also infect the scalp,

where it causes hair loss and scaly patches; the body,

where it causes round, red, scaly patches that itch;

and the groin, where the so-called "jock itch" causes

itching and thickening of the skin.

Athlete's foot is the most common fungal infection

of the skin. It affects more men than women, probably

because men typically wear heavy, often airtight

shoes, and the fungus loves hot, dark, moist

environments.

Contrary to popular myth, athlete's foot fungus isn't

just found in locker rooms, although the moist lockerroom

environment is perfect for fungal growth. "The

fungus is probably present in your bathroom and in

your shoes all the time," says Andrew Schink, D.P.M.,

a podiatrist in private practice and past president of

the Oregon Podiatric Medical Association.

Frank Parker, M.D., professor and chairman of the

Department of Dermatology at Oregon Health

Sciences University in Portland agrees. "There's no

good way to avoid exposure to the athlete's foot

fungus," he says, "because it's everywhere where

there's moisture."

In fact, most people harbor the fungus on their skin,

but it's kept in check by bacteria that live on the skin.

So if the fungus is commonly present, why do some

people develop an athlete's foot infection, while other

people don't? Doctors aren't really sure, but they

believe some people are genetically more prone to

developing athlete's foot, and people with certain

health conditions, such as eczema, asthma, and hay

fever, have more difficulty getting rid of the infection.

"Some people are simply more susceptible to getting

it than others," explains James Shaw, M.D., chief of

the Division of Dermatology at Good Samaritan

Hospital and Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.

"Some people have chronic athlete's foot problems

and others are never bothered by it. It may have to do

with genetic factors or with exposure--being in places

where there are numerous feet in moist environments."

Most cases of athlete's foot cause only bothersome

redness, itching, flaking, and scaling on the soles of

the feet and between the toes. In severe cases,

however, blisters form on the soles of the feet;

fissures, or cracks, that weep fluid can also open

between the toes. These fissures are vulnerable to

secondary infection. When the infection involves the

toenails, it can cause the nails to become discolored

and thick. Also, if left untreated, athlete's foot can

infect other parts of the body.

Doctors don't agree on exactly how athlete's foot is

spread, but most believe it's passed by direct contact

with an infected person or with a contaminated

surface, such as the floor of a shower stall. But Shaw

says the real determinants of whether or not you'll get

the infection are how susceptible you are and how dry

you keep your feet.

While some severe cases of athlete's foot require a

doctor's care, most can be effectively treated at home.

The following strategies can help you soothe and heal

athlete's foot and keep it from cropping up in the

future.

Move away from moisture.

When you think about athlete's foot fungus,

remember that it likes moist, warm, dark

environments. All of your treatment and prevention

strategies should center around keeping your feet as

dry as possible.

Dry between your toes.

"Don't just use your damp bath towel to dry between

your toes," says Schink. "Use a thin, dry hand towel

and thoroughly dry between each toe." If you can't get

your feet dry enough with a towel, try drying them

with a hand-held hair dryer on the "warm" setting.

Wash those feet.

Twice a day, wash your feet in soap and water, and

dry them thoroughly, says Shaw.

Kick off your shoes.

Go barefoot or wear open-toed sandals whenever you

can. "Going barefoot is good for the feet and great for

treating and preventing athlete's foot," says Schink.

Of course, it's not always possible to go barefoot,

especially at work. But you may be able to sneak off

those shoes during lunch, at break time, or when

you're sitting at your desk.

Medicate 'em.

Over-the-counter antifungal preparations are very

effective for most cases of athlete's foot, says Parker.

These products come in creams, sprays, or solutions

and contain tolnaftate (Tinactin), miconazole

(Micatin), or undecylenic acid (Desenex). Creams

seem to be more effective, but powders can help

absorb moisture. Parker recommends washing and

drying the feet, then applying the medication

thoroughly twice a day. "Experiment. If one product

doesn't work, try another. Different products seem to

work better for different people," says Margaret

Robertson, M.D., a board-certified dermatologist in

private practice and a staff physician at St. Vincent

Hospital and Medical Center in Portland, Oregon.

Be persistent.

Too often, people stop using the antifungal

preparations as soon as the symptoms of athlete's foot

infection go away. The fungus, however, may still be

present. "Fungus is slow-dividing," Robertson

explains. "You have to be persistent and use the

medication for three to six weeks to see improvement.

" Once the infection has cleared, keep using the

antifungal cream, powder, or lotion once a day or

once a week--whatever keeps your feet fungus-free.

Make tea for toes.

To help dry out the infection and ease the itching that

accompanies athlete's foot, Schink advises soaking

your feet in a quart of warm water containing six

black tea bags. "The tannic acid in the tea is very

soothing and helps kill the fungus," he says.


[To Be Continued]


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