We diligently take care of a lot of parts of our bodies. Our face? We wash our hair, shave, and moisturize to keep it looking fresh. Hands? We cut our fingernails and file them to keep them smooth along with moisturizing them. We soap up the rest of our bodies when we shower. Well… the vast majority of it. But we tend to ignore our feet.
When it comes to ignoring the feet, we do it so many different ways - we cram them into shoes that don’t fit or make you perform an odd balancing act every step that you take. Many of us also let our toenails grow to absurd lengths before remembering to cut them. All of this can lead to breeding grounds for fungus, which can make life very annoying and even dangerous to some.
Like many other ailments and conditions, this isn’t just relegated to people who play sports or work out. The medical name for it is tinea pedis and you usually see it start in the area between your toes. It will look like a scaly rash and it starts because your feet get sweaty while also being squeezed into tightfitting shoes. Conveniently for the fungus, it’s also dark in there, which can help it grow.
You’ll feel itching, burning, and stinging in the area. Another reason why it’s called athlete's foot is that you can get it from the surface of things like gym locker room floors or even towels at the gym. It can be fixed with lotion that you buy over the counter at any drug store. You should also wear flip flops or shower shoes when using the shower at the gym and always make sure that you use a clean towel. Walking barefoot at home is one thing, but since so many people use a gym locker room, it can easily be spread. See a doctor if it doesn’t go away after two weeks or if you have diabetes, since that can lead to a secondary infection.
This condition, known as onychomycosis, can start off as something inconspicuous - like a white or yellow spot under your toenail. That’s the fungus - it then begins to burrow further in and you’ll see the nail start to change colors, get thicker, and even start crumbling. There are times that it’s mild but oftentimes you will need to get treatment for it.
It’s usually caused by a fungus called dermophytes, and older adults usually get it. Their nails may also get deformed and an odor may be present. Diabetics need to constantly monitor the state of their feet since they also tend to lose circulation due to poor circulation. The fungal infection could turn into something worse for them. This type of infection is not anywhere near as contagious as athlete’s foot. People should use sterile nail clippers each time they cut their toenails. Treatment can include oral antifungal drugs, and medicated nail polish or nail cream. Surgery is the last option, where the toenail is removed.
The most important thing to keep in mind is to not ignore the problem. These are not things that will just go away. First, try to be proactive and keep your feet dry. Avoid walking barefoot in communal areas. Have over-the-counter cream handy if you are prone to getting it. But if the above steps are not working, then you need to get medical help to keep it from getting worse. We need our feet to get around. Take care of them!
When it comes to these conditions, the majority of the people will just have to endure some itchiness and rashes, but we can’t stress enough to any diabetics who are reading this - see a doctor. The same goes for those who are immune-compromised. The fungus can break down the skin and then you can wind up with ulcers of the foot or cellulitis. That’s because the blood circulation in that area is weak and healing can be very difficult.
Ultimately, you need to pay more attention to your feet. It doesn’t take that much time to ensure that they are in good shape. Wear comfortable shoes, not what the latest fashion magazines are touting. Also, do not let up treatment. The fungus can be quite persistent and can come back. Being armed with this knowledge can make life a lot easier for you.
Dr. John J. Hickey is no stranger to foot conditions. He has helped many patients over the course of his career at Levittown Podiatry. Give him a call today - 516-735-4545 - to make an appointment to see what he can do for you.
2870 Hempstead Tpke, Suite 103,
Levittown, New York 11756
Phone: (516) 735-4545