Hyderabad: Red, itchy, cracked, scaly feet? If so, then they require attention as these are the first signs of fungal infection on the feet.
Most people who wear socks for a long time exhibit these symptoms.
The dark, humid atmosphere inside the shoes allows fungus and bacteria to proliferate easily.
During monsoons there is natural dampness in the air and long hours of wearing socks along with tight fitting shoes makes the feet vulnerable to these fungal and bacterial infections.
If neglected, these infections aggravate with time, age and conditions like diabetes and obesity.
Simple acts like keeping the feet dry and clean and changing your socks every day and wearing dry footwear will go a long way in maintaining healthy feet.
‘Crack is the first sign’
The first signs of infection of feet begin with cracked heels.
When the skin around the heels crack or becomes thickened or dry, it can split under simple pressures even like walking.
This can get worse in people who have a large fatty pad on the sole of their feet.
Other causes include prolonged standing, pregnancy or excess weight.
The medical causes of cracked heels are genetics, diabetes, thyroid problems, athlete’s feet, down’s syndrome, kidney disease, lymphoma, psoriasis and eczema.
Dr Mohammed Parvez, consultant for internal medicine, Mediciti Hospitals, says, “Simple home-based treatments can help to deal with cracked heels.
Use a heel balm in the morning as it increases the elasticity of the skin on your heels.
Using it in the night ensures that the feet are provided with enough moisturisers so that they do not dry up.”
‘It is highly contagious’
The fungi that infect human feet live on the skin, especially on skin proteins called keratin which causes the fungal infection referred to as athlete’s foot.
Cuts or blisters are easy targets for infection. Also, wearing tight, non-breathing footwear allow the fungi to flourish.
Importantly, this infection is contagious. Places where people go barefoot like religious places, swimming pools, gym locker rooms, contact with used towels and others’ shoes are some of the ways the infection can spread.
Dr N. Jithendran, consultant, reconstructive surgery, Global Hospitals, says, “Antifungal creams have to be used till the infection subsides. There is usually a dark patch between the toes and till the patch is completely removed the creams must be used. Often when it becomes light people stop using the cream but it re-emerges.”
‘Fungus can spread all over body’
Infection of the feet causes pain, difficulty in walking, anxiety, loss of work hours, decreased productivity and expenditure to the individual.
It must not be neglected as it can cause secondary infections that can become life-threatening.
Dr Hari Kishan Boorugu, general physician with Apollo Hospitals, explains, “Diabetics and patients with neuropathy and loss of sensation in the feet are at increased risk of foot and toe infections. If neglected, the infection can spread upwards, into the rest of the body especially in diabetics, elders and people with varicose veins and peripheral vascular disease. At times, it may require surgical intervention, including limb amputation, in serious cases. Therefore it is important for any infection to be attended to immediately.”
It has been found that changing socks daily can be the easiest solution to avoid infection. People suffering from corns or calluses should wear soft and well-fitting footwear. Dr Kishan explains, “They can use corn caps or undergo surgical cutting of rough skin by a surgeon.”