Why Athlete’s Foot Is Dangerous In Diabetes

Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis) commonly occurs in diabetics.  Since the flaking and peeling skin symptomatic of this fungal infection can resemble large areas of dry skin, affected clients often mistake it for very dry skin.  At McDermott Footcare, monitoring the presence of Athlete’s Foot in diabetic clients is part of the routine, on-going assessment.

What does Athlete’s Foot look like?

The appearance of Athlete’s Foot was described in this earlier blog post (read here), but it bears repeating.

In its beginning stage, Athlete’s Foot shows up as flaky, scaly, peeling skin between the toes, most likely between the fourth and fifth toes.  There may also be  superficial cracking or fissures of the skin between the toes.  It may or may not be itchy.  It is odourless.  If there is a noticeable odour, this indicates a bacterial infection which is different from Athlete’s Foot but of equal concern.

The flaky, scaly area may spread down the soles of the foot.  As it spreads, the affected area often becomes reddened and may feel itchy or burning.  It may develop into moccasin-type Athlete’s Foot, covering an area that would typically be covered by a moccasin-type shoe.

Athlete’s Foot concerns for diabetics

Athlete’s Foot that remains untreated may cause abrasions, small cuts and bleeding in the skin.  This provides an opportunity to develop a bacterial infection known as cellulitis.

Cellulitis is a non-contagious bacterial infection that may occur secondary to Athlete’s Foot.  Diabetics are more prone to developing cellulitis because of a weakened immune system.  It is characterized by redness, swelling, warmth, tenderness and tightness of the skin in the affected area.  Oral antibiotics are prescribed as treatment.  If cellulitis does not respond well to antibiotic therapy, areas of blackened, necrotized or dead tissue may develop, which may result in amputation.

The circulatory system is weaker in people with diabetes.  Poor circulation causes weakening of the immune system, which causes increased risk of infection.  Any infection left untreated can be dangerous.  For a diabetic, the danger increases since unresolved infections in the feet and lower limbs are a leading cause of amputations.  That’s why even mild Athlete’s Foot becomes a concern.

Steps to prevent and treat Athlete’s Foot at home were addressed in a previous McDermott Footcare blog (read here).  It is important for everyone, but especially diabetics, to understand these steps for preventing the fungal infection.  For diabetics, the home remedies should be used as part of a comprehensive treatment plan which includes prescribed anti-fungal creams or ointment from your doctor.

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author

Vinegar is Good for Your Feet!

A mainstay at McDermott Footcare, white distilled vinegar is reliable and inexpensive.  If you google the many uses of vinegar, you’ll see claims for everything from cleaning windows to controlling blood glucose.  I don’t know about its use in controlling blood glucose, weight loss or other medical conditions,  but  from my experience,  I know that vinegar is helpful in treating certain foot care concerns.  

Some people like to use apple cider vinegar, organic vinegar or  flavour-infused vinegar.  If you want to use fancier vinegar, go for it.  But for me, a big  jug of simple, plain, white vinegar is just fine.

Athlete’s Foot:

For mild, uncomplicated Athlete’s Foot a.k.a. Tinea Pedis,  a daily vinegar and water soak works well.  For more detailed information on Athlete’s Foot, read my blog on this topic.  Uncomplicated Athlete’s Foot looks like this picture.   There is slight peeling and scaling between the toes, especially the 4th and 5th toes.  It may spread to the back of the toes.   It may  be itchy or have a burning sensation.

Mix up a solution of  1/4 cup white vinegar in a basin of warm water, enough to cover the affected foot.   Soak daily for 15 minutes until the peeling, scaling, itching and burning sensation are gone. 

If your Athlete’s Foot is more complicated –  if the itching, scaling and redness have spread all over the bottom and maybe the sides of your foot –  it’s a good idea to see your doctor for a prescription anti-fungal cream or lotion and use it along with the vinegar and water foot soak.

Dry, cracked heels:

The same 1/4 cup white vinegar-water soak as above is also great for treating those rough, dry, cracking heels so many of us have.  Here’s my blog on dry, cracked heels.   The acid in vinegar, acetic acid, is very gentle and softens rough heels really well.  Gently scrub the feet while soaking for 10 – 15 minutes, 3 times a week.  You can scrub existing calluses at the same time.  Soaking too often or for too long will dry out your skin.

Smelly Feet:

Admit it.  This happens to you.  It happens to me.  Especially in the summer when my feet sweat during hiking.  Or after a long day at work.  Even in my breathable socks and shoes.  Smelly feet, or bromhidrosis,  is caused by a mixture of sweat and bacteria. 

Our all-purpose vinegar and water foot soak works here as well.  Vinegar has disinfecting properties that help to get rid of the bacteria.  Of course, proper foot hygiene is important too.  Wash your feet with warm, soapy water first, then soak.  

 Take a closer look at that humble bottle of white vinegar lurking in the back of your kitchen cupboard before going out and spending  your hard-earned money on fancy foot products.  I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised at how vinegar can help your feet.

Copyright Terry McDermott. May not be reproduced in whole or in part without permission of author