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     Volume 4 Issue 58 | August 12 , 2005 |

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Problems in the Foot Department

Athlete's Foot
Athlete's foot typically affects the skin on the feet between the toes, but can move anywhere on the foot and can affect the toenails.

Athlete's foot is an infection of the skin and the nails, usually on the feet. The infection is usually found on the skin between the toes. Sometimes the fungal infection spreads to the toenails, which become thick and distorted. Fungi are plant organisms (tinea pedis) such as mould and mildew and grow best in conditions that are moist. Bacteria may thrive as a secondary infection, which worsens the symptoms of the disorder and makes it more difficult to cure. A fungal infection is one of the most difficult nail and foot conditions to treat.

It is common to catch athlete's foot from other people who have it by walking on floors that are moist or wet (e.g. at swimming pools and in shared bathroom facilities). Athlete's foot is also much more common in people who tend to have moist feet. Athlete's foot can also be spread by sharing other people's shoes or personal care items such as towels and wash cloths.

Athletes Foot and Fungus may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. It can be spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere.

On the skin:
- Reddened, cracked, and peeling skin
- Some bleeding
- Itching
- Burning
- Stinging sensation
- Development of small blisters. (Blisters often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas of tissue are exposed, causing pain and swelling. Itching and burning may increase as the infection spreads. In severe cases the skin may thicken, like a callus, and begin to scale.)

On the toe nail:
- Change in colour (yellow or brown)
- Nail gets thicker
- Bad odour
- Debris collects beneath the nail
- White marks on the nail

Self-care treatments
Bathe your feet at least once a day with soap and warm water. Dry thoroughly after bathing and keep your feet dry. Change socks frequently and buy socks that absorb moisture, such as cotton and wool. Expose your feet to the air for short periods of time throughout the day (do not walk barefoot, however). Wear sandals with open toes whenever possible.

- Wear sandals or shoes when walking on moist or wet
- Don't share shoes or personal care items such as towels
- Wear socks made of absorbent materials such as cotton or wool
- Change socks frequently if you perspire heavily
- Choose footwear that allows for the circulation of air
- Keep the floors in shared facilities clean and dry
- Keep your feet clean and dry by dusting foot powder in shoes and hose and feet
- Clean athletic shoes frequently

Fungal Nails
Fungal infection of toenails, called Onychomycosis, is a common foot health problem that many people do not recognise. Fungi are simple parasitic plant organisms, such as molds and mildew, that do not require sunlight for growth. They easily attack the nail, thriving off keratin, the nail's protein substance.

Onychomycosis is an infection underneath the nail that can also penetrate the nail. If it is ignored, it could impair one's ability to work or even walk because it is frequently accompanied by thickening of the nails, which then cannot be easily trimmed, and may cause pain while wearing shoes. This disease can frequently be accompanied by a secondary bacterial and/or yeast infection in/or about the nail plate.

- Change in colour (yellow or brown)
- Nail gets thicker
- Bad odour
- Debris collects beneath the nail
- White marks on the nail
- This infection is capable of spreading to other toenails, the skin or even the fingernails.

Toenails are especially vulnerable around damp areas where people are likely to be walking barefoot -- swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers. Injury to the nail bed may make it more susceptible to all types of infection, including fungal infection. Those who suffer chronic diseases, such as diabetes, circulatory problems, or immune-deficiency conditions, are especially prone to fungal nails.

Clean, dry feet resist disease. Wash the feet with soap and water, and dry thoroughly. Shower shoes should be worn in public areas. Shoes, socks and hosiery should be changed daily. Use a quality foot powder, talcum not cornstarch. Buy shoes that fit well and are made of materials that breathe.

General Foot Care Tips
For All Feet
- Wash your feet daily. Rinse off all soap and dry thoroughly, especially between toes.
- Trim nails straight across, and not too short. Don't cut out or dig at corners.
- Do not trim, shave, or use over-the-counter medicines to dissolve corns or calluses
- Wear clean socks or stockings, changed daily. Don't wear any that are too short or too tight.
- Wear shoes that fit.
- people's feet sweat more than others, and are more prone to athlete's foot. These tips may help:
- Wear shoes made of leather or canvas - not synthetics. Sandals are good.
- Switch shoes from day to day.
- Use foot powder.
- See your doctor if severe problems persist.
Source: Footcare Direct

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