Fungal Foot Infections


What is foot fungus?

Fungal foot infections are easy to catch and a lot harder to treat. There are many different types of foot fungus and can range from simple Tinea or athlete’s foot infections to fungal nail infections known as onychomycosis. Foot fungal infections rarely cause any detrimental effects on your general health but can be uncomfortable and unsightly. Fungus on the foot thrives in warm, moist environments and therefore has the potential to spread to other parts of the body or from person to person. Due to their love of a warm moist environment, fungal infections are commonly contracted in public bathing areas such as gyms and public swimming pools, however can also be caught from hotel floors and carpets or sharing shoes and socks. Fungal infections are also spread through the use of un-sterilised instruments or nail clippers.

Onychomycosis is the name given for a toe fungus and can otherwise be known as:

  • Tinea unguium
  • Tinea of the nails
  • Fungus of the nails

The primary fungi that cause onychomycosis are dermatophytes, but non dermatophyte fungi such as yeasts and moulds may also be causative agents. These fungal infections on toes occur when one of these types of microscopic fungi gain entry (usually through damage or trauma) to the nail, then grow and spread in the warm, moist environment inside socks and shoes. The nail itself provides a protective covering that allows the fungus to grow underneath on the nail bed unimpeded. The infection most often occurs by the spread of athlete’s foot but is also often picked up in damp areas such as public gyms, shower and swimming pools as the fungus thrives in warm damp areas.

Fungal infected toes can cause the nails to thicken, discolour, deform, crumble, split and occasionally may result in total loss of the nail. The infected toe is often of cosmetic concern as they are unsightly, and at times, painful.

Onychomycosis of the toe nails affects about 6-14% of the adult population and is most common after age 60.

Toe fungus treatment includes topical remedy( solutions you paint on ), nail laser treatment and oral anti-fungals.

Tinea pedis is a common foot fungus between toes and is often referred to as:

  • Athlete’s foot
  • Ringworm

The primary fungus that causes Tinea Pedis is a dermatophyte known as Trichophyton rubrum. This fungus thrives in areas that are moist and warm; the skin between the toes is a particularly susceptible area however individuals with tinea pedis are likely to have infections at multiple sites. Trichophyton rubrum is the most common cause of invasive fungal nail disease (called onychomycosis or tinea unguium).

Tinea pedis appears as a patch of soft, white, cracked skin, sometimes with red areas visible beneath. Tinea pedis may cause infection in toes, itching, burning or stinging and can create an unpleasant odour. It can spread via wet floors and shared footwear, socks or towels and damp areas such as public gyms, shower and swimming pools. Tinea pedis is often recurring, as the fungus can survive under the toenails and reappear when conditions are favourable.

Suggestions to avoid contracting fungus on feet include:

  • After washing, dry the skin thoroughly, with emphasis in between the toes.
  • Expose the skin to the air as much as possible.
  • Wear cotton/wool socks instead of synthetics.
  • Use antiperspirants to control excessive perspiration (sweating).
  • Change socks daily, and twice daily if you are perspire excessively.
  • Wear thongs to swimming pools, locker rooms, gyms and other communal areas.

Foot fungus treatment includes antifungal creams, gels, sprays or powders. It is important to continue applying these medications for the recommended length of time to make sure the fungus is eradicated. For some of these medications, this may be up to 1-2 weeks after symptoms have disappeared. Correct diagnosis is critical to best management of this condition, so contact Peninsula Foot Clinic and see a Podiatrist for advice on the best management.