What is Foot Fungus?

Phil Shepley

Foot fungus is a spreadable disease caused by microscopic fungus, the symptoms of which can include itchiness and scaling of the feet and toes. The fungus that causes this common problem thrives in areas that are warm and moist, making the feet a prime target. Some people are more likely than others to contract foot fungus, and the problem can occur more frequently in people whose feet remain hot and sweaty for long periods of time. It is also commonly known as athlete’s foot, and sometimes is also referred to as ringworm of the feet.

Talcum powder can keep feet dry and reduce the chances of a fungal infection.
Talcum powder can keep feet dry and reduce the chances of a fungal infection.

Usually foot fungus will begin to develop between the toes before spreading to the arch, sole, heel and the rest of the foot. It will sometimes cause the bottom of the feet to turn red, scaly and flaky. In some extreme instances, foot fungus will also cause blisters. When it spreads to different parts of the body besides the feet, it becomes known as ringworm.

Untreated athlete's foot will eventually invade the bed of toenails.
Untreated athlete's foot will eventually invade the bed of toenails.

The best way to prevent athlete’s foot is through good hygiene and keeping the feet and shoes cool and dry. It is important to know that foot fungus can thrive and be easily transmitted in environments that are moist and shared by many people such as a locker rooms or shower floors. Therefore, it is essential to keep the feet especially clean when subjected to an environment where there is a lot of traffic, and to wear footwear such as sandals in public facilities. It can also be prevented in the home by using disinfectant to clean common areas, by keeping towels dry and laundered, and by not sharing items such as socks and towels.

Wearing a breathable shoe, like a sandal, can help treat a foot fungal infection.
Wearing a breathable shoe, like a sandal, can help treat a foot fungal infection.

Once a foot fungus is contracted, it is usually relatively simple to cure with over the counter medications that are designed to kill the fungus. If the toenails become infected, however, it may be more difficult to keep athlete’s foot from recurring. In cases that are particularly long-lasting or extreme, someone should seek out a physician who can prescribe more powerful medication for curing the ailment. For someone with repeat symptoms it will become necessary to take special steps such as keeping the feet dry with talcum powder or to keep them medicated to prevent another relapse.

Water aerobics shoes can protect against foot fungus from locker room floors.
Water aerobics shoes can protect against foot fungus from locker room floors.
Foot fungus can cause itchiness and scaling of the toes and feet.
Foot fungus can cause itchiness and scaling of the toes and feet.
Creams that treat foot fungus are available.
Creams that treat foot fungus are available.

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