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Athlete's Foot: The Basics


“Make sure you wear your ‘flip-flops’ into that shower at camp!”  You can still hear the words of your mother today 

pleading with you to wear those sandals as you embarked on the bus for summer camp.


If you went to college and lived in a dormitory, your mother undoubtedly made you pack a pair of sandals for your use in the communal shower.


Oh, she may never have called the infection by name, but rest assured, she was doing her best to protect you from athlete’s foot.  It’s a common fungal infection that spreads easily in public places, especially in public showers, lock rooms and fitness centers.


Usually athlete’s food affects those small, dark spaces between your toes.  But if left untreated, it can often spread to your toenails as well as the soles and sides of your feet.  The good news is that this infection is easily cured just by using any number of over-the-counter remedies found in your local drug store. If your case is more severe, it may require a visit to your health care practitioner who can prescribe topical medication for it.


Athlete’s foot is also known as tinea pedis, ringworm of the foot and dermatophytosis.  It’s closely related to several other fungal skin conditions, most of which have similar sounding names.  Tinea is a type of fungus.  Pedis is the Latin word for “foot”.


A tinea infection can occur in other areas of your body.  For example, tinea corporis causes a red rash the displays itself as a scale red ring on the top layer of your skin.  You know this infection by its more common name ringworm of the body.


Tinea may strike men, causing an itching in their genital, inner thighs as well as their buttocks, called tinea cruris.  We all know this as jock itch.


If you’ve ever had school-aged children, then you may have encountered a form of tinea that causes a red, itchy patch on the scalp.  This form of tinea is known as ringworm of the scalp or tinea capitis and can result in bald patches on the head.


All of these conditions are caused by a group of mold-like fungus called dermatophytes. Sprouting wispy, fingerlike extensions dermatophytes infect the surface of the skin.  As a result, the deepest portion of our epidermis (which is the outermost layer of your skin) produces an abundance of skin cells.  As these cells push their way to the surface, the skin becomes thick and scaly.  As you can imagine, the more the fungi spread, the more cells your skin produces, and the more scales appear on your skin.  This causes the ring of the infection to form.

Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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