In the medical field we deal with a variety of problems. Often in TV shows the focus is on life or death situations, big accidents, and well allot of drama. However most of the time the focus is on eliminating pain or an uncomfortable feeling so that our patients can live fulfilling pain free lives, doing the activities they love. Foot fungus or tinea pedis can present in a variety of ways, from extremely painful blisters a rash or even as painless flaky skin. No matter the presentation we often find that this disease impacts our patients in a negative manner. Some times the pain makes work impossible, or some times the appearance makes patients embarrassed to do something as simple as taking a walk on the beach without shoes. Regardless of which group you fall into there is not only something that can be done but should be done. Studies have shown that the presence of foot fungus regardless of the severity has been linked to other conditions such as: nail infections, leg cellulitis, and diabetic foot syndrome. This article will tell you not only what to look for but what to ask your doctor about.

 

Foot fungus is now the most common type of identified fungal infection. Names for it include: tinea pedis, ringworm, and dermatophyte infection. Regardless of which name you hear they mean the same thing. Foot fungus is contagious and often is spread to a susceptible host. This can occur through a communal shower, sharing socks or shoes, or any shared surface that you do not have shoes on. However not everyone who comes into contact with fungus will get the infection. There is research indicating that the host must be susceptible to the infection, based on a variety of genetic factors. However being tested for these genetic factors is not feasible at this time, and for that reason it is better to avoid any areas where they may come into contact or at least mitigate their risk. Mitigating risk involves wearing socks and shoes whenever possible. When not possible wear sandals and avoid the bare foot from making contact with any surfaces. There are 3 main types of foot fungus that you should be aware of. 1st is interdigital tinea pedis. This is marked by itching between the toes, or of the entire foot. Also there is often maceration or increased moisture of the skin between the toes. If this type of tinea pedis is severe enough there is often noted ulcers, and skin sloughing, accompanied by a foul odor. The second type of tinea pedis that you should be aware of is dry tinea pedis. This infection often starts on the botom of the feet and may have some redness and flaky skin. However as the infection develops the body responds by creating more keratin, which may thicken the skin and even lead to cracks in the skin. Finally the 3rd type of foot fungus is vesicular tinea pedis. This fungal infection starts as a superficial flaking of the skin. As it progresses deeper there is noted infiltration of the skin leading to small raised clear bumps or blisters. It is important to note that these vesicles may be painful or pain free. This can also lead to a bacterial infection. If they do become infected with a bacteria in addition to the fungus there will often be an accompanying smell or drainage. This concludes the 3 most common types of tinea pedis that are enountered though there are a variety of other infections that can occur.

 

As seen there is a large variety of foot fungus with different presentation. It is also known that they can lead to much more severe problems than a bad appearance. For this reason it is important that when you see your podiatrist ask them if your dry feet might be infected. Tell them if you ever notice any redness, flaking, or itching of the feet. Tell them abut what shoes you wear, how long you are in them and if you notice that your feet are wet at the end of the day. Try to inform them if you notice an odor. Ask them if there office performs fungal cultures. This is particularly helpful in the earlier stages of fungal infections as noted above they may start off as very mild peeling of the skin. This will help determine if what you have going on is a reaction of your skin to an irritant, a fungal infection, or possibly just dry skin or xerosis. Finally ask them about ways to prevent infection as not all talking points were covered in this article. Patient treatment is often a conversation about what is going on and ways that not only we as physicians can treat the problem, but ways the patients can focus on the problem on a daily basis.