Athlete’s Foot

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Part of your duties as a medical caregiver is to deal with minor issues that don’t threaten your patients’ lives, but can seriously decrease their quality of life or work efficiency.  In times of trouble, you’ll need your people at 110%, and many issues such as toothaches or foot infections will prevent this from happening.

Athlete’s foot (also known as “tinea pedis”) is an infection of the skin caused by a type of fungus known as Trychophyton. This condition may be a chronic issue, lasting for years if not treated. Although usually seen between the toes, you might see it also on other parts of the feet or even on the hands (often between fingers).  It should be noted that this problem is contagious, passed by sharing shoes or socks and even by wet surfaces such as shower floors.  Those affected by Athlete’s Foot may also find themselves with Ringworm or Jock Itch (“Tinea Cruris”), caused by the same or similar organisms.

What Factors Cause Fungal Infections?

Any fungal infection is made worse by moist conditions. People who are prone to Athlete’s foot commonly:

  • Spend long hours in closed shoes
  • Keep their feet wet for prolonged periods
  • Have had a tendency to get cuts on feet and hands
  • Perspire a lot

To make a diagnosis, look for flaky skin between the toes or fingers.  The skin may appear red and the nails discolored.  Your patient will complain of itching and burning in the affected areas, sometimes severe. If the skin has been traumatized by scratching, you might see some fluid drainage.

How to Diagnose a Fungal Infection

If the condition is mild, keeping your feet clean and dry may be enough to allow slow improvement of the condition. Oftentimes, however, topical antifungal ointments or powders such as miconazole or clotrimazole are required for elimination of the condition.  In the worst cases, oral prescription antifungals such as fluconazole (Diflucan) are needed.  Don’t use anti-itching creams very often, as it keeps the area moist and may delay healing.  Patience is a virtue when it comes to monitoring the healing process; it may take more than a month for a significant case of Athlete’s Foot to resolve.

A favorite home remedy for Athlete’s Foot involves placing Tea Tree Oil liberally to a foot bath and soak for 20 minutes or so.  Dry the feet well and then apply a few drops onto the affected area. Repeat this process twice daily. Try to keep the area as dry as possible otherwise. For prevention of future outbreaks of Athlete’s Foot, apply tea tree oil once a week before putting on socks and shoes.

Dr. Bones

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