Find answers to medical questions from experts about Athlete's foot (tinea pedis).
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 getting tinea pedis include excessive sweating, wearing tight shoes and damp socks, and walking barefoot in public places such as swimming pools.
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:
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.
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This article was last reviewed on
15 Sep 2023
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