What is athlete's foot?
Athlete's foot is the most common fungal infection of the skin, infecting 21% of the UK adult population - it's name, tinea pedis, means gnawing worm! It's an infection caused by dermatophytes, of which the most common is trichophyton rubrum. These fungi thrive in hot, moist conditions. Often painful and unpleasant, symptoms can include itching, burning and cracking of the skin between the toes, and even the sole or heel of the foot. In acute cases, the fungus can cause blisters, ulcers and weeping.
How is it spread?
Spores from the fungus are spread via microscopic skin particles shed by the body everyday - it's therefore a highly communicable disease. Among the most common ways to become infected are walking barefoot in bathrooms, on infected floors (which is why many sufferers are those that frequent gyms and swimming pools) and sharing shoes, socks or towels. Wearing shoes constantly also provides an ideal breeding ground for the fungi.
How big a problem is it?
21% of the UK population M0.9 million) suffers from athletes foot' - that's more than one in five.
Of this, number half aren't even aware they suffer, so over 5.5 million people may be innocently spreading the fungus
Most people (70% suffer in the Spring/Summer with a quarter having five to ten attacks a year
60% of sufferers are men - although women tend to purchase the most treatments!'
Athletes foot affects a wide population - from teenagers to the late middle aged.
Risk is shown to increase with age in both men and women.
People with diabetes, obesity and heart problems (i.e. with poor circulation), and those involved in sports are more susceptible to the infection.'
64% of sufferers are between the ages of 25 and 55
How can athlete's foot be treated?
Most current treatments available over the counter are known as fungistatic - meaning they inhibit or 'stun' the fungus. In order to get rid of the infection, especially severe infections, some fungistatic medications require a treatment period of up to four weeks, or should be applied for at least a few days after symptoms have disappeared. Since most sufferers tend to stop treatment when symptoms disappear - in fact 51% of sufferers' treat for one week or less.
Athlete's foot - the patients' perspective
A recent survey by Novartis Consumer Health has revealed that athlete's foot, despite being a common problem affecting one in five in the UK, can actually be a debilitating condition in many respects and remains a social stigma!
Many believe athlete's foot can affect a sufferer's social life:
30% would opt out of sport altogether.
One in four said they wouldn't sunbathe when infected.
63% would avoid luxuries such as the sauna/steam room.
Eight one per cent of people find athlete's foot embarrassing - not surprising given 85% of people believe bad hygiene to be a trigger for the fungal infection - and in Europe the condition can be translated to mean 'foot mushrooms'!
Twenty nine per cent don't know what athlete's foot is - although some will almost certainly have had the condition - and 22% do not think its contagious - leading many to unknowingly infect others, including their families.
Indicating a need for public education about athlete's foot and effective treatment, 32% of people think once you have athlete's foot you have it for life!
Cultural differences also show up with regards to feet - more than a third of Europeans admit to being 'turned on' by feet whereas only 9% of people in the UK feel the same way.
Eighty five per cent of people say that feet with the condition are unpleasant to look at!