Athlete’s Foot

Question: My father, 68, was diagnosed with diabetes last year and has changed his eating and lifestyle habits. However, he suffers from sweaty feet and gets an Athlete’s foot (fungal infection). He continually scratches his feet, and I am worried that doing so might lead to bigger wounds — and that these might mean limb amputation (if the infections don’t heal). What can be done about his skin condition?

Answer: Athlete’s foot or fungal foot infection (tinea pedis) is caused by a group of fungi that can invade and multiply within the outer layers of the skin. Tinea pedis is spread through direct contact with infected skin scales or through contact with infected wet surfaces such as a bathroom floor.

Risk Factors for Athlete’s Foot

Risk factors for getting tinea pedis include excessive sweating, wearing tight shoes and damp socks, and walking barefoot in public places such as swimming pools.

Seek athlete’s foot treatment if you suspect a foot infection.

People with a weakened immune system, including those with poorly-controlled diabetes mellitus, are also at risk of infection. Tinea pedis can be effectively treated. Most commonly, doctors use topical anti-fungal cream or powder. In certain circumstances, including recalcitrant infection and the presence of blisters, doctors may prescribe oral anti-fungal medications that are usually very effective.

After successful treatment, appropriate hygiene techniques will help to prevent a recurrence. These include:

  • Drying the feet thoroughly after bathing.
  • Not walking barefoot in public areas.
  • Keeping toenails short and clean. Fungus can hide under long, dirty nails.
  • Changing socks at least once a day. Choose socks made of absorbent material that also dry easily.
  • Allowing shoes to air out. Wear a different pair of shoes every two to three days.
  • Sprinkling anti-fungal powder inside shoes and socks.

Tinea Pedis and Feet Eczema

It is important to differentiate tinea pedis from feet eczema that has similar symptoms, including redness, scaling, fissuring and itch, and for which the treatment is different. To aid in this, doctors may order a fungal scrape, a simple and quick test where scales are removed using a blunt edge and examined under a microscope for fungi.

Dr Benson Yeo
Associate Consultant
National Skin Centre

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