Feet are Full of Fungus!

A recent study from the National Human Genome Research Institute confirmed that there are more types of fungus growing on the feet than many other locations in the body. Feet were found to have more fungus that even the nostril, elbow pit and crease between the thigh and groin. This research could explain why the feet and toenails seem to become infected by fungus much more frequently than anywhere else in the body.

Foot fungus infection or tinea pedis can have several different clinical manifestations. The most common form is known as interdigital tinea pedis, meaning that it occurs between the toes. Skin between the toes will often appear red, or white with moist skin that sloughs off, and with open cracks in the skin. Odor and itching may also be noted. A fungus species called Tricophyton rubrum most commonly causes interdigital, and most other types of tinea pedis, however other fungus or even bacteria may be contributing to the infection. Another very prevalent type of tinea pedis is the more commonly recognized form of chronic tinea pedis, or “Athlete’s foot”. This type of foot fungus infection may cause the feet to become itchy. The skin on the bottom of the foot will often appear red with overlying white scales. These two forms of tinea pedis are both commonly associated with the development of toenail fungus. Once fungus has invaded skin on the feet, it may penetrate the seal of the nail bed and migrate beneath the toenail. Lifting of the end of toenails, extreme thickening, debris under the nails, and color changes are all seen with toenail fungus, or onychomycosis.

When fungus occurs in thin skin, as in interdigital tinea pedis, topical anti-fungal creams or powders can penetrate into cells and kill the fungus. However antifungal medications cannot penetrate into nail or hair that has been infected. This fact combined with the new knowledge of the study showing that feet host from 80 to 100 different species of fungus can make treating a fungal infection, especially of the nails, very difficult. While some antifungal medications stall or slow fungus growth, others kill some species contributing to the infection. With around 100 species on the foot it can be difficult to be sure that the medication will treat the specific fungus causing the condition. It is for this reason that a nail or skin sample may need to be sent for testing to determine whether or not there is fungus present, and in some cases which species of fungus is present. Treatment for both toenail fungus and tinea pedis is very similar. Oral antifungal medications have had success in treating both toenail and skin fungal infection, however this treatment route has a number of drawbacks. Because oral medications are absorbed throughout the entire body, they will have more unwanted side effects in major organs compared to using only a topical treatment. Another option for toenail fungus is the PinPointe Foot Laser which is a non-systemic way of treating your toenails. This treatment method is quick, painless and has no systemic side effects. Once foot fungus has occurred it can often be difficult to completely eradicate, so it is important to take preventative measures to avoid developing a fungal infection. These measures include wearing sandals in public showers or around pools and good foot hygiene, which includes keeping feet clean and dry and not applying any lotions between the toes.

Please visit www.ColumbusFoot.com for more tips for healthier and happier feet or call 614-885-3338 (FEET) to schedule an appointment with a podiatrist in Columbus, Ohio. Columbus Podiatry & Surgery is located on the North side of Columbus, Ohio near Worthington.

Columbus Podiatry & Surgery has opened a new location in Gahanna, near Easton. Please call 614-476-3338 (FEET) for an appointment with a podiatrist in Gahanna, OH today.

By Dr. Animesh (Andy) Bhatia