Friday, February 23, 2018

Athlete’s foot or is it psoriasis?


Mark Fraser

Athlete’s foot vs psoriasis

Two common conditions that are often seen are athlete’s foot and psoriasis. Both are considered conditions that dermatologists or podiatrists are best able to diagnose, but can go undiagnosed or misdiagnosed by some in the medical field.

The first misconception by the average person is that psoriasis is contagious. However, it is an autoimmune condition, and therefore cannot be spread from one person to the other. Athlete’s foot on the other hand, is a fungal infection and can be spread.

Like psoriasis, athlete’s foot is a condition that can come on and off, but in the case of psoriasis, it is referred to as flares. Being an autoimmune condition, it does not leave the body, rather the flare subsides. In the case of athlete’s foot, with treatment, the condition can leave completely.

The incidence of clients coming to the clinic with psoriasis is increasing. Within the last week, a few persons have visited with, in one instance, reddish, very dry, scaly skin under the feet with an appearance like fish scales, and patches around the toes. In another instance, it was an extremely dark scaly area of skin, hard in some parts, with deep painful cracks. They both were unable to classify their conditions.

Signs and symptoms of psoriasis

It is difficult for the average person to identify, and for most conditions, where the foot peels or itches, it is classified as athlete’s foot. Psoriasis is a word many never heard of, and even if they did, it is usually associated with the scalp, elbows, and knees. Unfortunately, the bottom of the feet, fingernails, and toenails, are areas that get affected as well. Lesions can develop, and a large number of persons also suffer with psoriatic arthritis, which is a severe form of the disease.

Are you thinking psoriasis is a skin condition? That’s true, psoriasis is an autoimmune condition, where the immune system confuses your own healthy cells for intruders and attacks them. It may also appear as pustular, or fluid filled bumps. Both these variants can be found on the foot. The pustular form can be difficult to distinguish from athlete’s foot. Psoriasis can also mimic a fungal toenail infection. The slight difference is that while both conditions may cause thickening, psoriasis causes a pitting in the toe nails, like a sea of holes ranging in size.

If psoriasis is severe, it will move from the skin and into the joint, causing painful arthritis. It alters the joint space of the toes and morphs the bone into a characteristic deformity that can be seen on X-ray. Another indication of this joint problem is a toe that is swollen up like a sausage.

Athlete’s foot

The main signs and symptoms are reddened, itchy, dry feet, which is followed by contact dermatitis. However, psoriasis also has these symptoms. People with psoriasis typically have areas of thick, reddened skin with dry, whitish-silver patches that may itch. The dry patches are called psoriatic plaques. Patches would ease up a bit, but could return worse than ever during a flare. Very dry, scaly, and itchy, it’s very hard resisting the temptation not to scratch. There are, at times, nasty cracks where the bottoms of the toes meet the sole of the foot; and the sad reality is that cracked, irritated skin can lead to infection.

Because athlete’s foot is contagious, it may be caught by walking barefooted in the locker room. However, it is not known exactly who’s at risk for getting it. Sweaty feet, tight shoes/socks, not drying one’s feet well after swimming, bathing, or exercising, all contribute its development.

Athlete’s foot may not always have the same appearance. In some people, the skin between the toes, especially the last two toes peels, cracks, and scales. There may be redness, scaling, and even dryness on the soles, and along the sides of the feet. It may also produce burning of the feet. A few individuals may develop a single small patch of intensely itchy blisters. These skin changes can also be caused by other medical conditions like contact dermatitis and psoriasis.

Home care

For psoriasis, keep the skin well moisturised to maintain its health and ease discomfort. Hypoallergenic moisturiser, applied on a regular basis, also helps. In the case of athlete’s foot, ensure the feet are dried properly and never moisturise between the toes. Also, avoid walking barefooted.

Diagnosis and treatment

Psoriasis tends to be worse during stressful times and affect people with weakened immune systems. Visit a dermatologist or podiatrist if you have psoriasis on your feet, or have persistent reddened, itchy feet. They will carefully examine your feet and take a thorough medical history. They may also collect a small sample of the affected area to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment of psoriasis depends on the severity of the disease. Mild cases can be treated with steroid creams. More severe cases may need drugs to depress the body’s immune system. Psoriasis cannot be prevented, but individual triggers can be avoided to reduce irritation. If you are experiencing psoriasis, speak with your podiatrist to find out what you can do to minimise your symptoms. If it’s severe, you may have to work with a variety of medical specialists to get it under control.

With athlete’s foot, ensure that you practise proper hygiene. It is diagnosed via examination or biopsy, and can be treated with antifungal solutions.


You can’t prevent the development of psoriasis, but you can avoid things that make it worse. Stress management techniques may help some people with psoriasis. It is important that you are on the right treatment plan. The only way to know if you have psoriasis, athlete’s foot, or toenail fungus, is to have your condition examined, and diagnosed by your dermatologist or podiatrist.

Your feet mirror your general health . . . cherish them!

Leana Huntley is an English trained foot health

practitioner attached to ALMAWI Limited The Holistic Clinic. Contact the clinic at or visit the website at