It lurks in locker rooms, shower stalls, damp towels, and sweaty socks, spreading easily from one foot to another when it can. It thrives in warm, moist conditions. Yet while athletes seem to be at higher risk for this condition, they aren’t the only ones who get it; and it’s not always restricted to the feet.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection, and is the common name for “tinea pedis.” This is the most common type of fungal infection of the skin. It is caused by a family of fungi that live exclusively on the outside surface of the skin. They live off the proteins of the skin surface and are incapable of invading the body. Since the fungus is limited to the surface of the skin, the impact is also on the outside surface of the skin.
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
You might have athlete’s foot if you experience the following symptoms:
- Itchy, red, flaky rash—particularly between the toes; it can also spread along the bottom and sides of the feet, or under the nails
- Stinging and burning in the area of the rash
- Oozing, crusty blisters
If you scratch or pick at the area on your foot, it can spread to your hands. Using a towel with the fungus on it can also spread it to other areas, including the jock itch region.
Risk Factors for Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is very contagious, but some people run a higher risk of getting it than others:
- Men get athlete’s foot more often than women, but women and children can get it too.
- People with weakened immune systems, or feet that are already dry or cracked.
- Walking barefoot through locker rooms, showers, saunas, swimming pools, rugs or mats where someone else with the fungus has walked.
- Wearing damp or tight-fitting shoes or socks also increases your athlete’s foot risk.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
There are a lot of things you can do to reduce your chances of catching athlete’s foot, including:
- Wearing flip-flops in locker rooms, swimming pools and other warm, damp public places where the fungus might lurk.
- Keeping your feet dry and clean
- Changing into clean socks and footwear often
- Allowing shoes to dry out completely before wearing them again
- Regularly trimming your toenails; keep them clean and dry
- If you have sweaty feet, use an antifungal or drying powder
Other Types of Athlete’s Foot
There is another form of athlete’s foot which is if anything more common than the classic form described above. This is “chronic tinea pedis,” often referred to as “moccasin type tinea” because the rash covers the sides and entire bottom of the foot, the way a moccasin would. It can last indefinitely, and results in constant dry peeling and cracking skin on the soles. It is usually misdiagnosed as merely “dry skin,” but it is a full blown infection and requires treatment to improve.
Athlete’s Foot Treatment
If you do get athlete’s foot, you can apply an over-the-counter anti-fungal powder or cream for up to two weeks to clear up the infection. If the itchy rash does not clear up, however, or if it continues to spread to other areas, you may need more aggressive prescription treatment. If you struggle with symptoms of a fungal infection on your feet, hands or any other area of the body, do not wait to get help, call us for an appointment today. Clearing it up quickly and getting relief from the itch depends on getting an accurate diagnosis and treatment.
If you have athlete’s foot, reach out to Avail Dermatology at 770-251-5111 for an appointment!