Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) – causes

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) - causes

Athlete’s foot is a widespread disease – it is estimated that every fifth German shares stockings and shoes with the athlete’s foot Trichophyton rubrum. Once this highly resilient fungus has settled in the skin and nails, it isn’t easy to get rid of.

What is an athlete’s foot?

Swimming pools, changing rooms, hotel carpets – public places frequented by many people are strongholds for mushroom cultures. These like to frolic in damp, warm areas and are spread by tiny skin flakes. They don’t particularly like it too hot, but even then, they know how to help themselves: In the form of spurs, they wait for better living conditions on sauna benches, for example.

We are talking about dermatophytes – fungi that attack the skin and its appendages, i.e. hair and nails, and can cause diseases there. Representatives of the Trichophyton species are primarily responsible for the fungal infection between the toes, the soles of the feet, and the nails.


Causes of athlete’s foot

You can hardly avoid pathogens – the fungi or their permanent forms, the spores, which can be found almost everywhere. It is widespread to get infected when walking barefoot in places where fungi also feel comfortable because of the climate and many people walk without shoes, for example:

  • in the pool
  • in the sauna
  • in the (hotel) shower
  • in the gym locker room

Particularly piquant: Foot disinfection systems, such as those found everywhere in swimming pools and saunas, also collect the microorganisms’ tanks.

What role do shoes play?

Unwelcome roommates can also change location when shoes are swapped. In the past, athlete’s foot was far more common in the Bundeswehr than today – newly admitted recruits were given boots that others had already worn. Since new shoes have been allocated, the infection rate has been declining.

Not every contact leads to the disease but constantly stressed skin (e.g., through heavy sweating ) can cause the fungi to multiply. Especially when your feet are in poorly ventilated shoes for a long time, the skin between your toes swells due to moisture, thus offering an entry point for the athlete’s foot.


Vulnerable occupational groups and groups of people

The English term “athlete’s foot” also comes from the fact mentioned above – after all, athletes, in particular, often wear sweaty sneakers or ski boots for a long time. However, construction, sewer, and miners are also particularly at risk.

Minor wounds, a weakened immune system or circulatory disorders are particularly critical. For example, people with diabetes suffer from athlete’s foot more often than the average population.

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