The fungi (molds) that cause athlete's foot require warmth and moisture to survive and grow. There is an increased risk of infection with exposure to warm, moist environments (e.g., occlusive footwear—shoes or boots that enclose the feet) and in shared humid environments such as communal showers, shared pools, and treatment tubs. Chlorine bleach is a disinfectant and common household cleaner that kills mold. Cleaning surfaces with a chlorine bleach solution prevents the disease from spreading from subsequent contact. Cleaning bathtubs, showers, bathroom floors, sinks, and counters with bleach helps prevent the spread of the disease, including reinfection.
Medical treatment of onychomycosis is suggested in patients who are experiencing pain and discomfort due to the nail changes. Patients with higher risk factors for infections such as diabetes and a previous history of cellulitis (infection of the soft tissue) near the affected nails may also benefit from treatment. Poor cosmetic appearance is another reason for medical treatment.
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Onychomycosis (toenail fungus) is an infection of the nail and sometimes surrounding tissue. It is extremely common with 20 percent of the general population and 75 percent of people over 60 years old affected. Frequently the problem causes cosmetic concerns, but many patients also experience pain. Sometimes toenail fungus can allow more serious infections to develop.
According to the UK's National Health Service, "Athlete’s foot is very contagious and can be spread through direct and indirect contact." The disease may spread to others directly when they touch the infection. People can contract the disease indirectly by coming into contact with contaminated items (clothes, towels, etc.) or surfaces (such as bathroom, shower, or locker room floors). The fungi that cause athlete's foot can easily spread to one's environment. Fungi rub off of fingers and bare feet, but also travel on the dead skin cells that continually fall off the body. Athlete's foot fungi and infested skin particles and flakes may spread to socks, shoes, clothes, to other people, pets (via petting), bed sheets, bathtubs, showers, sinks, counters, towels, rugs, floors, and carpets.
Fungus can infect the skin and nails of your feet. A fungal infection of the skin is also known as Athlete’s Foot, which causes itching, burning, and flaking. This infection can spread to the toenails if it’s not treated. Both types of foot fungus are extremely contagious, both in your own body as well as to other people through contact. Therefore, it’s essential to treat the infection and prevent its recurrence.
Modern treatments made surgery a last resort. “Before we had these 21st century medications, we didn’t have a good choice in how to deal with toenail fungus,” said Dr. Hinkes. “Oftentimes patients would come in, and out of frustration and lack of any real significant clinical cure with medication, they would ask for their nails to be permanently removed.”
Topical treatment (polish or cream) isn’t likely to get rid of a fungal nail infection. Treatment with tablets is considerably more effective and takes less time. But some people can’t take tablets because of the very rare, yet serious risks. How you feel about the pros and cons of the different treatment options is a personal matter. You can also discuss the options with your doctor.
Keeping socks and shoes clean (using bleach in the wash) is one way to prevent fungi from taking hold and spreading. Avoiding the sharing of boots and shoes is another way to prevent transmission. Athlete's foot can be transmitted by sharing footwear with an infected person. Hand-me-downs and purchasing used shoes are other forms of shoe-sharing. Not sharing also applies to towels, because, though less common, fungi can be passed along on towels, especially damp ones.
Globally, fungal infections affect about 15% of the population and affects one out of five adults. Athlete's foot is common in individuals who wear unventilated (occlusive) footwear, such as rubber boots or vinyl shoes. Countries and regions where going barefoot is more common experience much lower rates of athlete's foot than do populations which habitually wear shoes; as a result, the disease has been called "a penalty of civilization". Studies have demonstrated that men are infected 2–4 times more often than women.
High heeled shoes push too much body weight toward the toes and then squeeze them together. Over time, the result can be hammertoe (early stage, lower right), abnormal bends in the toe joints that can gradually become rigid. Surgery is sometimes needed to relieve the pain of severe hammertoe. Crowding can cause other toe deformities, along with continuous shoe friction, leading to painful corns and calluses.
The first step is to take a history of the problem,” said Mark Hinkes, DPM, CEO of HappyFeet LLC, and a podiatrist with 40 years experience. “In other words, I want to know how long have you had this and what previous treatment you’ve had.” A podiatrist needs to understand the extent of the problem, and also any other medical factors which may influence their choice of treatment.
Wei, Y.-X., Xu, X.-Y., Xu, & Song, X. (2017). A review of antifungal natural products against the pathogenic fungi causing athletes' foot disease. Current Organic Chemistry, 21, 1–13. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Xun_Song/publication/319128408_A_Review_of_Antifungal_Natural_Products_Against_the_Pathogenic_Fungi_Causing_Athletes'_Foot_Disease/links/59931c65458515c0ce61efa1/A-Review-of-Antifungal-Natural-Products-Against-the-Pathogenic-Fungi-Causing-Athletes-Foot-Disease.pdf