Athlete's foot has accomplished an impressive feat.
It's radiated from a rare condition to one lurking in almost every slipper. The fungus now infects 1 in 5 of the world's population.
Anyone can get the itchy rash, from swimmers to care home residents.
At the start, the symptoms are mild.
Most won't know about the fungal takeover — one of its secrets of success.
And if it reaches your nails, well then you do have a problem.
Athlete's Foot Symptoms
Athlete's foot first emerges between your toes as a pink blemish.
Then comes the itch.
At this early stage, it irritates when you take your shoes off. As athlete's foot spreads, your toe spaces fill with soggy white skin.
(This can look like interdigital corns)
Red sweeps over your forefoot and arch. The white skin 'tween your toes splits and bleeds.
The irritation turns into a constant burning and dead, flaky skin dusts your feet like flour. By now, the incredible itching stops you in your tracks.
Athlete's foot, aka tinea pedis, stems from a fungus, trichophyton rubrum.
This microscopic yeast feasts on skin cells and is specially adapted to survive. On you.
It's evolved to remain undetected by your immune system. This devious trait means it won't depart if you ignore it.
The fungus multiplies by spreading invisible "seeds" that reproduce rapidly.
Known as spores, these mini-fungi find a suitable area between your toes, and colonize. Then they start to grow.
A spore is a microscopic clone of the original fungus. The fungus throws off millions of these with one goal in mind: to grow on you.
Athlete's foot spores thrive in the damp, sweaty conditions inside empty slippers.
To break the infection cycle, you need to treat both infected feet and the source of reinfection.
This includes any thing you wear on your feet.
Diabetics or those with low immune systems should take athlete's foot seriously. The bleeding skin it causes poses a risk of cellulitis, which is dangerous.
From Trench to Athlete's Foot
How to Get Rid of Athlete's Foot (For Good)
Athlete's foot isn't hard to heal. The flaky skin and redness cure quickly.
The issue comes from reinfection.
People are relieved when the itching disappears, only for it to start again a short time later.
This happens when spores remain and lurk for a human host again.
The first step of cure is to use anti-fungal spray.
Apply once or twice a day to the affected area for 2 to 4 weeks.
Keeping your feet dry minimizes the damp conditions it needs to survive.
So wear shoes that allow air to circulate and change your socks often.
Prevention is about making future breeding grounds as uninviting as possible.
So the second step is to kill any remaining spores.
The most likely places to pick it up are warm, damp environments like locker rooms or swimming pool tiles.
Don’t share your shoes, use flip-flops anywhere communal.
Even with the best effort, athlete's foot is still out there. Billions of people ensure that.
Athlete's Foot Causes Fungal Nail Infections
Athlete's foot causes fungal nail infections. It's the same yeast particles.
It's not easy to catch a fungal nail infection. But if you do, you're in for a much bigger challenge than athlete's foot.
Unless you treat it early, over-the-counter treatments can't penetrate the area affected.
This is why it's important to kill athlete's foot and its spores, early.
Women (Have Worse Feet Than Men)
Yep, and it's all down to those ballet-tight footwear.
Fashion is an integral part of your life. Society says so — like corsets.
But it's not only shoes and buying apparel online is a double-edged razor.
You can access stuff you'd never see down your McHigh Street for sweatshop prices.
Then it rocks up and looks (or fits) decidedly different from advertised.
If you've got Amazon Prime, use Try Before You Buy.
You can order six items (including shoes, kids and men's clothes) and cavort in front of a mirror trying them for 7 days. You only pay for what you decide to keep.
(Returns are free).
Athlete's Foot: Fungal Nails From Your Feet
Athlete's foot is a fungal overachiever. It evades your body's own defences; you willingly spread it all over yourself via its itch mechanism.
But it's easy to treat. It usually responds well to non-prescribed creams and shows fast improvement.
But it's also quick to return, and the longer it lingers, the more risk of catching more troublesome fungal infections.