Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a contagious fungal infection that commonly affects the feet, usually beginning between the toes. Though it begins on the feet, it can spread to other parts of the body such as the hands, nail, and groin area. Fungi thrive in moist, humid environments such as locker rooms or showers. This is where the term “athlete’s foot” comes from, as these conditions are prevalent during athletic activity and is a common infection among athletes.
Athlete’s foot is commonly caused by direct contact either from person to person or by coming into contact with a contaminated surface such as bedding, towels, shoes, socks, floors, or showers. Sweaty, confined feet are also another common cause for fungal growth. As mentioned above, fungi thrive in warm, humid, damp, or moist areas such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers.
Anyone can get athlete’s foot, but certain behaviors can increase your risk such as:
- Visiting public places barefoot
- Sharing shoes, socks, or towels, with an infected person
- Wearing tight, closed-toed shoes often
- Keeping your feet wet for long periods
- Having sweaty feet without changing socks
Signs of athlete’s foot can vary depending on the type of infection and the areas to which it spreads. However, common symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
- Itching, stinging or burning between toes or on the soles of your feet
- Inflammation or swelling
- Blisters on your feet which can crack and peel exposing raw skin
- Cracking or peeling of skin between your toes
- Dry skin on the soles or sides of your feet
- Discolored, thick, or crumbly nails
If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system and notice any of these symptoms or suspect an infection of any kind, contact your doctor right away.
Diagnosis and Treatment
Your podiatrist may be able to diagnose your condition with a simple examination but will often order a skin test or scraping to confirm.
If your condition is mild, over-the-counter antifungal medication may be recommended. If proven ineffective, your podiatrist may prescribe you topical or antifungal medication. A bacterial infection may also be present during diagnosis. If so, your podiatrist may also recommend a broad-spectrum antibiotic such as penicillin. It is important to follow through with your prescription medication as instructed even if symptoms disappear to prevent the infection from recurring.
Athlete’s foot can be prevented if you take certain precautions. We suggest practicing good foot hygiene by using the following recommendations:
- Wash your feet daily with soap and water. Remember to dry your feet thoroughly, especially between the toes.
- Change your socks regularly if you are prone to having sweaty feet.
- Alternate footwear so that your shoes have time to dry out after each use.
- Protect your feet in public places by wearing appropriate footwear.
- Use antifungal powder on your feet, socks, and shoes daily.
- Do not share shoes, socks or towels.
- Wear breathable fibers for socks and shoes to reduce perspiration.
For more information on athlete’s foot and how to treat it, contact Adam F. Resnikoff, DPM today.