Many people are plagued by athlete’s foot, which is a common fungal infection (tinea pedis). This problem usually happens when your feet are kept warm and damp for long periods of time, for example if you wear tight, closed shoes (especially those made of synthetic, non-breathing materials). The dampness causes fungus to grow, and it usually starts between your toes.
What Causes Athlete’s Foot?
The fungus that causes this infection is the same one that causes jock itch and ringworm infections. The fungus is always present, but it is encouraged and flourishes in humid, damp, dark conditions, such as the inside of sweaty shoes.
What Are The Symptoms?
You can tell you are developing athlete’s foot if you begin to feel itching on your feet and between your toes and/or you notice a red, scaly rash on your feet and toes. The rash usually itches the most immediately after you remove your shoes and socks.
When this happens, you should begin treatment with an over-the-counter medication and take care to decontaminate your footwear and surroundings right away. Wash your clothes, bedding and towels and clean your floors thoroughly to discourage the fungus and prevent others from catching it. It is very contagious.
Can It Get Worse?
If you catch the infection right away, it is pretty easy to treat with over-the-counter salve, spray or liquid anti-fungal preparations. If left untreated, athlete’s foot can spread and become much more painful and itchy.
There are different types of athlete’s foot which present varying degrees of symptoms. Moccasin athlete’s foot presents as chronic scaling and dryness on the soles of the feet and extending up the sides. This variety may just seem to be dry skin or perhaps eczema.
Other types may present as skin ulcers or blisters. These are very painful and itchy and make wearing socks and shoes difficult, if not impossible.
If left untreated, the fungus can spread to both feet and even get under your toenails. If you scratch your feet, it can spread to your hands and infect your fingernails. Eradicating nail fungus is very difficult.
The infection can also spread to your groin (jock itch) and even become a systemic infection with the passage of time.
Are Some People More Prone To It Than Others?
There are some risk factors that can make you more prone to contracting this fungal infection: They include:
- Sharing bath mats, towels, bed linens, and so on with someone who has athlete’s foot
- Going barefoot at the public pool or in locker room showers, saunas and the like
- Eating a diet that is high in sugar and simple starches
- Having a compromised immune system
- Wearing damp shoes and socks
- Wearing tightly fitting shoes
- Wearing second-hand shoes
- Being male
Is a Doctor’s Visit Necessary?
Most of the time, you can treat athlete’s foot with OTC medications and smart changes in personal care habits. If you have a chronic condition such as diabetes, you should see your doctor. This is especially true if you notice more severe symptoms, such as swelling in your feet, redness or other signs of infection. Naturally, you should see your doctor if you have a fever.
How Do You Treat Athlete’s Foot?
Look for standard, OTC anti-fungal preparations to treat the infection. Follow the instructions carefully and consistently, but don’t be surprised if the infection recurs. Once athlete’s foot has become established, it is hard to eradicate it. Prescription medications and/or a change in diet and personal care habits may be necessary for best results.
Follow these tips to prevent and treat athlete’s foot successfully:
- Rotate your shoes by wearing different shoes from one day to the next. Wearing the same shoes day-in-and-day-out is conducive to the development of athlete’s foot.
- When you go to the public pool, spa, sauna or gym locker room, wear a pair of waterproof sandals to prevent having your feet touch the floor.
- After treating your feet for athlete’s foot, wash your hands thoroughly. This will help prevent spread to your hands and fingernails. It will also help prevent accidental transfer to your groin.
- Always keep your feet and toes dry. Use cornstarch or foot powder to absorb excess moisture between your toes.
- Don’t scratch athlete’s foot. This will just cause it to spread to your hands and may cause bacterial infection.
- Don’t wear shoes made of rubber, vinyl or other synthetic materials for extended periods of time.
- After showering, dry your body first and your feet last. This helps prevent spread of the fungus.
- Wear well-fitted shoes that allow good ventilation. Pair them with clean, absorbent socks.
- Don’t wear second hand shoes, and don’t let anyone else wear your shoes.
- Wear sandals or go barefoot whenever possible to allow your feet to air.
- After you bathe or shower, dry between your toes thoroughly.
- Use anti-fungal foot powder on your feet every day.
How Long Does It Take To Treat Athlete’s Foot?
Typically, treatment with an OTC medication takes about two weeks. In addition to following packaging instructions closely, you should take care to keep your feet clean and dry. Replace shoes and socks to avoid reinfection. Change your socks at least once a day, and be sure your shoes are clean and dry. Air them out well when you are not wearing them. If diligent treatment does not clear up your problem in a couple of weeks, see your doctor.
Athlete’s Foot Treatments