Athlete’s foot, sometimes called tinea pedis, is the most common of all fungal infections. Its symptoms can be irritating and uncomfortable, causing itching, stinging and burning to the affected foot. It can also be easily spread to other areas of the body, so early action is important. Luckily, the condition is quite easy to treat, with over-the-counter medication proving effective in most cases. That said, if the problem persists, you should consult your doctor about alternative treatments.
Despite its name, athlete’s foot is not limited to those who engage in sport and can affect anyone. The condition is caused by fungus that grows on the top layer of the skin. This fungus is cultivated in warm, damp places, such as the spots between the toes, though it can also appear on the heels, palms or between the fingers. Athlete’s foot is contagious, and can be contracted through direct contact with the skin, or through socks, stockings or surfaces like a shower or swimming pool floor.
Since the fungus grows in damp and warm conditions, athlete’s foot can be easily prevented by keeping your feet dry and cool. Try wearing loose, well-ventilated shoes whenever possible, particularly when exercising, and be sure to dry your feet thoroughly after a swim or shower. Changing your socks often and using antifungal or drying powders will also help to stop the condition from developing. If you develop a minor skin or nail injury on your foot, you are more susceptible to athlete’s foot, so always ensure that it is kept well-bandaged and treated. Symptoms of athlete’s foot can often disappear and later return, so you must remain vigilant even after treatment is complete.
The most common symptoms of athlete’s foot are a burning or itching between the toes and cracked or peeling skin. However, symptoms can often vary depending on the type you have and the area affected. If fungus grows in between your toes, a bacterial infection may occur which can cause the skin to break down even further. In bad cases, the toe nails can also become infected and begin to crack, crumble or even fall out. In some instances, fluid-filled blisters may also appear on the sole or heel of the foot, which can be susceptible to further infection. If your foot exhibits red streaks and is swollen or warm to the touch, it may be a sign of further bacterial infection, and should be examined by a doctor immediately.
Most mild cases of athlete’s foot can be managed and treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal ointments, lotions, powders or sprays. Medicated powders can also help to keep your feet dry and prevent the condition from developing or spreading. If your athlete’s foot is more severe and does not respond to over-the-counter treatments, more potent prescription medication might prove effective. Doctors may also recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help treat blisters or soggy skin, according to the Mayo Clinic. Though unlikely, long-term medications or preventative measures may be required to effectively treat athlete’s foot.