In contrast to this rather discouraging report about psoriasis, where medicine has not yet found the answer, it is a pleasure to tell of a disease which used to be decidedly bothersome but which in the modern city today (I have it on the word of the dean of our dermatologists) hardly ever causes a visit to the skin specialist’s office. This is athlete’s foot, or epidermophytosis, a fungous growth that thrives on moist, warm skin. Practically always growing on the skin are some mold-like organisms such as cause wheat flour to spoil. As they grow best in moist, warm areas, they are usually found between the toes or in the groins where they have the familiar but not very polite name of jock-strap itch. Not only the young athlete in the boy’s or girl’s school often caught this; but any hot city dweller seeking relief on a crowded beach was likely to pick it up. There are effective powders and salves, available at the drugstores, to relieve these symptoms. Best of all, preventive hygienic methods at swimming pools and beaches now protect our feet from infection so that the swimmer or sun-bather seldom needs to suffer from athlete’s foot.
In considering diseases of the skin it must be remembered that the skin is an open book, spread before our eyes. What we see is, if the change of metaphor may be pardoned, merely the surface manifestation of what is happening in the depths. Take the ridiculously named shingles. When it is dignified by its Latin name of herpes zoster, we are more ready to consider the great suffering that accompanies it, particularly prolonged in elderly persons. Yet this classical name means merely a girdle of blisters.
It is agreed now that it is an inflammation in a ganglion, or knot of nerve cells, from which nerve fibers extend to the skin. The blisters always follow along the skin where the fibers end. The pain may appear before the skin lesions, thereby making diagnosis difficult at first. It never kills, but it may make its victims resigned to death.