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Just the name "foot fungus" sounds unpleasant, and indeed it is.
This sometimes chronic condition appears when normally occurring bacteria, especially yeast, mold or fungi, grow out of control and/or when the immune system is not functioning properly.
I talked with dermatologist Richard K. Scher, MD, a nail specialist at Columbia University Medical Center in New York City, about foot fungus and why some people seem to have so much trouble with it.
The most common form of foot fungus is athlete's foot, or Tinea pedis, named after a species of mold that is most often involved. Interestingly, Dr. Scher reports that some families are particularly susceptible to foot fungus. In fact, even though children are often in the damp, moist conditions that tinea pedis favors, such as swimming pools, the only kids who are apt to get athlete's foot before their teen years are those with a family predisposition to it. In addition to genetic susceptibility, the groups that are vulnerable include the elderly, individuals with diabetes or other circulatory problems and people who have immunosuppressive disorders.
Dr. Scher explains that athlete's foot generally starts in the fourth toe web and moves toward the bigger toes. Its symptoms are hard to miss -- itchy red splotches, scaling and blisters, sometimes leading to fissures or cracks. Athlete's foot can cause burning or stinging and can be quite painful. Although it typically appears between the toes, it also can occur on the soles of the feet and the heels. Complications are rare, although it is possible to get a secondary bacterial infection. If your foot becomes swollen and warm to the touch, call your doctor right away, especially if there are red streaks present.
The first line of treatment, says Dr. Scher, is to use an over-the-counter antifungal cream or powder. Follow the label instructions, he says, and treat with this for a few weeks to a month. Continue using for several weeks after the fungus has cleared to ensure that it doesn't return. If the fungus doesn't resolve itself in that amount of time, you should see a dermatologist, who will prescribe a stronger antifungal medication.
Unfortunately, the recurrence rate of tinea pedis is quite high, says Dr. Scher, and it is contagious. To avoid athlete's foot...
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This article was provided by Bottom Line's Daily Health News. Bottom Line's vast network of leading mainstream, alternative, and complementary practitioners brings you the information you need to make informed decisions about your health. Sign up now for their FREE electronic newsletter.
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