Foot fungus is one of the most common podiatry issues in the UK, yet so many people just ignore it until the fungus is completely developed. Fungus growth is an extremely slow process. It generally takes three times as long as the growth of a normal nail, and this makes it very difficult to detect any problem with your feet. Perhaps by the time you realise you have an issue, the infection is already well-established. To avoid the problem altogether, it’s best to learn about ways of preventing foot fungus.
More about foot fungus
Although many types of fungus are known to exist only a few cause problems in humans. The most common route for infection is a direct invasion of tissues – usually the skin. Any area of the skin may be affected.It is important to remember that fungus infection can spring up elsewhere on the body as well.
It is generally accepted that some individuals are more at risk of the disease than others. Risk factors include:
- Those who frequently share communal bathing facilities.
- Close contact with animals – specific varieties of fungus are known to infect animals as well as man and cross infection may occur.
- Several studies have concluded that people with diabetes are more likely to get fungal foot infections.
- People who regularly take part in sport – especially long distance runners.
- The tendency to develop fungal foot infections may run in families. This may be due to a genetic disposition but could also be down to shared lifestyle habits.
- Age – fungal foot infections are rarely observed before puberty, but increase in frequency in the over fifties.
The most common fungal foot infections are:
Athlete’s foot (Tinea pedis)
Around one in five people in the UK have athlete’s foot. It’s caused by a fungus that grows in warm, damp areas of skin, such as between your toes. The fungal infection makes your skin itchy, flaky and red. It also causes white cracks to appear, especially between your toes and on the side of your foot. Occasionally it causes blisters.
Nail infections (Tinea unguium)
Fungal nail infections usually start at the edge of your nail and spread slowly down to the base. They tend to take a long time to develop. They cause your nail to discolour and become crumbly. The surrounding tissue may also thicken. Later, your nail can become so thick that it’s painful to wear shoes. Toenails are usually affected more than fingernails.
If you suspect that you have a fungal foot infection it is important that you see your doctor immediately. Some fungal foot infections can spread to other parts of the body where they can cause serious problems. Your doctor will be able to prescribe the appropriate anti-fungal medication to sort the problem out. This could be in the form of creams, sprays or powders but they can take a long time to work. It is also common for sufferers to get a re-occurrence of the problem that will need to be treated again and again.
Various lasers are also being used for nail fungus. However, further studies are needed to establish the efficacy. By far the best approach is to prevent infection in the first place. Here are our top tips for preventing a bothersome fungal infection of the feet.
How to protect your feet from fungal infections
- Daily foot hygiene. The feet should be washed in warm soapy water, then rinsed before drying carefully, paying particular attention to the skin between and beneath the toes.
- Dust afterwards with a medicated talc containing a mild anti-fungal agent.
- If your toes are very tight together, this reduces the natural air-flow between them and makes the skin more vulnerable. The use of a little surgical spirit between the toes at bedtime, can work wonders.
- Footwear should be composed of natural materials as far as possible as these allow the feet to “breathe”.
- Wear socks of wool or cotton and shoes of real leather.
- Never wear anyone else’s footwear.