Athlete’s foot isn’t just for athletes! Although active people are especially likely to pick up this scaly, irritating nuisance, the truth is that athlete’s foot is the most common fungal skin infection among the general population, affecting men, women, children of all ages and activity levels.
Although sometimes dismissed as a minor nuisance, athlete’s foot (also known by its medical name, tinea pedis) can cause a lot of discomfort and distress, and it can spread to new areas of the body—or to new people—pretty easily. That’s why you should make treating it a priority.
Symptoms and Complication of Athlete’s Foot
The telltale symptom of athlete’s foot is the development of red, itchy, flaky, dry, scaly, cracking, peeling skin, most often on the tops of your feet and between your toes. The rash can produce sensations that range from significant itchiness to burning or stinging pain. In severe cases the skin infection can even produce blisters.
Athlete’s foot won’t necessarily remain on your feet, or even your skin. The fungus can spread through both direct and indirect contact and cause jock itch, ringworm, or fungal infections of the toenails or fingernail, in yourself or in others.
What Causes Athlete’s Foot?
The symptoms of athlete’s foot are produced by a class of fungi known as dermatophytes. As mentioned above, these are the same fungi that can produce different skin or nail infections elsewhere on the body.
These fungi love warm, moist environments—think locker rooms, pool decks, public or private showers, towels, or the inside of your shoes. They can pass from person to person through contact with infected surfaces—for example, somebody with athlete’s foot can deposit the fungi on a locker room floor, where they can latch onto you.
Treating Athlete’s Foot
Fortunately, the vast majority of cases of athlete’s foot can be treated without an appointment, through the application of topical antifungal medications available over the counter in virtually any pharmacy. It is vitally important that you follow the full recommended treatment course, commonly twice-daily applications for a period of about 4 weeks. This is true even if symptoms clear up early—the fungi may not yet be eradicated.
Cases that don’t clear up with over-the-counter antifungal remedies and good foot hygiene should be referred to Dr. Danciger for a closer examination (which may involve taking a sample from the affected area). There may be a secondary diagnosis that needs additional treatment, or you may require prescription strength oral or topic antifungals to eliminate a particularly stubborn case.
Athlete’s Foot Prevention
Because athlete’s foot can spread indirectly, it’s important to maintain good hygiene and protect your feet in situations where they’re especially likely to be exposed.
- Wash feet at least daily, and make sure you dry thoroughly, especially between toes.
- Change shoes and socks at least daily, possibly more if you’re prone to excess sweating.
- Have at least 2 pairs of “everyday” shoes and alternate them so that each has a full day to dry out between uses.
- Never share shoes, socks, or towels with others.
- Don’t go barefoot in public or shared spaces, particularly if they’re damp and moist. A pair of shower shoes, or even flip flops, should be worn in such circumstances.
- Use talcum or antifungal powder on feet or in shoes as necessary.
It’s tempting to shrug off or ignore athlete’s foot, but we strongly urge against it—you don’t want it to spread to other areas of your body (or for that matter, your neighbors and family). If you can’t get it under control using over-the-counter measures, please let Dr. Danciger help you identify the problem and develop an effective treatment program. To set up an appointment at our Palm Desert office, give us a call today at (760) 568-0108, or request an appointment online via our website.