18 February 2019

Tanzania: Stop Foot Fungal Disease in Its Tracks

Bryce Kazungu came home with a new pair of shoes and he was excited. These were the work boots he had been looking for and they were comfortable.

However, two weeks down the road, he started experiencing itching around his small toe; on the skin and sole but brushed it off thinking he needed to give closed shoes a break for a while.

"At the end of the day after he resumed using closed shoes, the new pair in particular, the itching was unbearable," Kazungu says.

On removing the shoes, his sole had blisters while the upper part had flaky looking skin. "I was alarmed that I rushed to the nearest clinic only to discover that I had a fungal infection," Kazungu says adding: "I received an anti-fungal powder that I used religiously and dried my toes thoroughly after bathing."

However, because he had to visit construction sites regularly, this new pair of shoes was his best option and as you would have it, the infection blossomed. Trying to see why there was no change, Kazungu stopped putting on the shoes for a week and resumed thereafter. The infection seemed to disappear during the break but came to life the very day he resumed wearing them.

"I confirmed that these shoes were the problem because whenever I took a break from them, I still used closed shoes," Kazungu says. He shelved the shoes and the infection died out completely.

What is a fungal foot infection?

"It is medically known as tinea pedis caused by a fungus with the ability to live and feed on the protein keratin found on animal skin, hair and nails," Dr Edward Ogwang of The Skin Specialist, explains.

"Fungal foot infections are more common in adolescents and adults although can affect people of all ages," Dr Sabrina Kitaka, an adolescent specialist at Mulago University College of Health and Sciences, explains.

Although many of the risk factors for a fungal foot infection are preventable, you are more likely to develop a fungal foot infection if you have diabetes, have a disease that causes poor circulation, swim in a public swimming pool, share items such as towels, socks and shoes, have moist fingers or toes for an extended time, have a weakened immune system, wear closed-toe shoes such as tennis shoes and boots, smoke, have family members with it, walk barefoot on a communal floor or spend a lot of time in the water.


Dr Kitaka says wearing shoes without socks causes the moisture from your sweat to remain around the foot for long. This increases the risk of infection forming. Therefore, get a pair of cotton or wool socks and avoid re-wearing socks.

Do not share socks, shoes, or towels with others and change your socks when your feet get sweaty.

Alternate between at least two pairs of shoes, wearing each pair every other day, to give your shoes time to dry out between use.

Wash your feet with soap and water daily and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Wear sandals in public showers, around public swimming pools, and in other public places. Additionally, make sure your shoes fit well and are made of material that lets air move through it, like canvas or leather.

Get ample sleep because as much as a poor diet can contribute to a fungal infection, so can sleep deprivation.

Less sleep means less strength for your body's immune system. If you cannot get six to seven hours of sleep each night, start the day by taking a comprehensive multivitamin to lessen cravings.

Become more active. Dr Kitaka says feet get fungal infections owing to their location. Your circulatory system struggles to work effectively and efficiently around your toes. Therefore, toxins that would normally be removed linger yet fungus feeds on them.

Being active increases the strength of your circulation system thus reducing infection risks.

"Stop the potential of spreading the infection; anything you apply to your foot that isn't an anti-fungal item could spread the infections to other body parts. For this reason, avoid using things like nail polish until the infection resolves," she advises.

Treating concurrent nail infection is also very important when dealing with fungal foot infections.


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