In summer is probably the commonest disease, except the common cold, which afflicts people in the United Statesringworm, or athlete’s foot, or Dhobie itch.
It is caused by the invasion into the skin of a small fungus which is related to yeast. It forms a network of branching roots, which grow insidiously in the upper layers of the skin. It is particularly likely to grow well on moist skin surfaces, and for that reason the feet, and especially the areas between the toes, are affected. It also grows on the hands between the fingers, under the armpits, and on the thighs.
The most prominent symptom is itching. If the blisters are scratched open with the finger nails, infection is likely to set in and considerable inflammation may result.
The appearance of the eruption differs somewhat in different parts of the body. When on the feet it is usually recognized on account of the popularization of the term “athlete’ s foot.” When not on the feet, it is almost always ascribed to something else than what it actually isacid, or heat, or irritation from rubbing.
Characteristically, the fungus causes blisters, around which there develop red areas of inflammation. This is almost invariably true on the feet and hands. Under the armpits there is an area of redness with very sharp edges, so that the normal skin stops abruptly and the red, itching area begins.
The disease is seldom dangerous except as the scratching may cause infection. I have known of serious blood poisoning from this source, and even the loss of part of a limb. But even in the mildest cases the annoyance is sufficient to make it a disease of real importance, and even economic importance.
The prevention and treatment will be taken up in the articles following this one.