Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that impacts more than just ball-players. In fact, something as simple as wet shoes or a trip to a public swimming pool can be enough to make you sick. More prevalent than most people realize, this problematic foot fungus affects more than three million people each year in the US alone. In this guide, we will discuss all the need-to-know information on this difficult condition.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Also known as ringworm of the foot and tinea pedis, athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection that appears between the toes. Highly contagious, exposure to the infection can also spread to the hands and toenails.
What fungus causes athlete’s foot? Doctors call athlete’s foot fungus Trichophyton, a species usually discovered in clothing and floors, but will infect feet under the right conditions. Studies show that that up to 70% of individuals will have athlete’s foot at some point.
There are different kinds of athlete’s foot. Each type may look different and affect different areas of the feet.
Athlete’s Foot Between Toes: Toe Web Infection
Toe web infections occur between the toes or fingers. This type of athlete’s foot between toes typically starts between the pinkie toe and the fourth toe, causing itchiness and discoloration. The bacteria thrive and reproduce quickly in warm, muggy environments, like unwashed sweat socks.
Athlete’s Foot Blisters: Vesicular Infection
Acute vesicular athlete’s foot occurs anywhere on the foot, causing red blisters that get worse during the summer. Sometimes, another wave of painful blisters appear in the chest, arms, or sides of the fingers. If the athlete’s foot blisters burst, there is a high risk of bacterial infection and you may need antibiotics.
Athlete’s Foot Infection: Ulcerative Infection
This type of athlete’s foot infection causes ulcers or open sores on the foot, which are vulnerable to severe infection that leads to discoloration and inflammation. Ulcerative infection rarely occurs, but can be very painful.
Athlete’s Foot Rash: Moccasin Infection
Moccasin athlete’s foot is a chronic scaly type of the disease. This type of athlete’s foot rash is usually seen in individuals who are suffering from asthma or eczema, and is linked with fungal nail infections. The pattern of moccasin infection most often affects two hands and one foot, or two feet and one hand.
What Causes Athlete’s Foot?
How do you get athlete’s foot? Leading causes are poor foot circulation, wet socks, or unclean feet. Athlete’s foot is caused by the mold-like fungus that is commonly found around unkempt swimming pools, communal baths, on gym locker room floors, and in showers.
Athlete’s foot itch may spread and severely affect other parts of the body. These include:
An athlete’s foot infection may spread from your foot to your groin because the fungus can quickly transfer on your towel or hands. Jock itch is caused by the same type of fungi associated with athlete’s foot.
The fungus linked with athlete’s foot may also infect the nails, which are more difficult to treat. Possible symptoms include crumbly and discolored toenails. This is why it is important to always keep feet dry and clean, especially between toes.
Frequently touching or scratching your infected feet puts your hand at high risk of contracting a similar fungal infection.
Athlete’s Foot Symptoms
Exact athlete’s foot symptoms depend on what type of fungal infection you have. This condition looks different in each individual, but the most common signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include odor, a powdery appearance, and small burning rashes. In the early stages of athlete’s foot, the skin looks pale and is itchy.
If you experience athlete’s foot pain and the rash does not seem to improve, consult a doctor or a skin specialist right away. Apart from pain and soreness, a secondary bacterial infection may cause fever, swelling in the leg, or blisters.
Keep blisters from spreading with these comfortable shoe pads.
When to Call an Athlete’s Foot Doctor
Knowing how to get rid of athlete’s foot is about fast and effective treatment. Luckily, many treatment options are within arm’s reach in your own home.
Diagnosing Athlete’s Foot
As athlete’s foot is a common condition, a lot of people have tried to self-diagnose their skin infection at home. However, if certain medications no longer work to alleviate symptoms, then it is best to visit a healthcare provider to figure out the problem.
How do you know if you have athlete’s foot? Apart from a thorough physical examination, your doctor may require a potassium hydroxide test to confirm the signs of athlete’s foot. Other diagnostic tests may be conducted to help rule out other chronic conditions:
- Irritant rash (contact dermatitis)
- Dry skin
- Dyshidrotic eczema
Athlete’s Foot Treatment
Is athlete’s foot curable? This extremely itchy rash is easy to pick up, but it does not get better on its own. Listed below are some effective athlete’s foot treatment options to clear up the infection.
Athlete’s Foot Cure: Proper Foot Care
Knowing what to use for athlete’s foot is essential. There are a couple inexpensive home helpers to stay on top of your foot hygiene.
Breathable Toe Caps
Gel toe caps protect achy toes, while still allowing them to breathe properly. ( See Product at Amazon)
Tight-fitting shoes cause excessive friction, which can make your blisters worse and more painful. Consider wearing gel toe caps to protect your sore toes while reducing the pressure of each step. The slim gel protectors have cushioning for pain so you can wear them under socks. In addition, the toe caps are made of breathable materials to keep your feet dry, cool, and comfortable.
Moleskin bandages are the best way to cushion targeted aches and pains. ( See Product at Amazon)
Though it cannot directly cure your condition, a quality moleskin bandage wicks away moisture and provides pain relief for increased comfort. After using topical medications, cover your feet with a moleskin tape to lessen the pressure as well as friction on blisters and sore areas.
Shower Foot Scrubber
Wash athlete's foot away without bending over with this quality foot scrubber. ( See Product at Amazon)
The best thing for athlete’s foot is to practice good personal hygiene. Keep your feet clean by using a latex-free and antimicrobial shower foot scrubber. Apart from gently cleansing the feet, the ergonomic foot scrubber can also massage, stimulate, and exfoliate.
Avoid strain while in the shower and take advantage of a shower chair.
Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot
Many people with mild symptoms have their own strategies to deal with athlete’s foot relief at home. Although there are no scientific studies to prove how well these home remedies work, some are worth trying. Tea tree oil can kill fungus and bacteria, potentially reducing the swelling, scaling, and itching of athlete’s foot when applied to the skin at least two times daily.
One simple tip on how to treat athlete’s foot is to let your feet breathe. You can wear open-toed shoes when going to work or doing errands. If you are going to wear closed shoes, use antibacterial spray on your feet every day. Also, never use the same pair of shoes and socks day after day.
Creams or Sprays for Mild Athlete’s Foot
If your condition is mild to moderate, your primary care doctor may recommend over-the-counter athlete’s foot ointment, antifungal lotion, spray, or powder to apply directly to your nails or feet. These products will reduce the symptoms and eventually stop bacteria from growing.
Cover all those hard-to-reach places with a handy lotion applicator.
Oral antifungals work by preventing the fungal cells from reproducing. Your doctor will recommend one that is safe and effective for you to use. Whether it is prescription or non-prescription, always follow the instructions for taking antifungal drugs.
Recovering from Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot healing time is different for each person, and there is no specific recovery time. On average, getting rid of the infection takes two to four weeks, though the recovery time can take up to several months. To minimize your recovery time, continuous self-care treatment is the key.
To prevent athlete’s foot from recurring, these are some steps to take at home:
- Wash your feet properly every day and make sure that the space between your toes is dry.
- As much as possible, go barefoot when you are at home.
- Wear synthetic socks made with polypropylene or acrylic because these materials can wick away perspiration.
- Use talcum powder to stop your feet from getting sweaty.
Preventing Severe Athlete’s Foot
Treat fungal infections the moment you notice the first sign of itchiness. Chronic athlete’s foot is something that you should never take for granted, as skin infections can be painful and make daily life much more difficult. Follow the tips mentioned above on how to treat the condition, and implement a full athlete’s foot prevention plan today.