What is Athlete’s Foot?
Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin. The fungus grows within the outer layers of skin. This foot condition was relatively uncommon before the invention of shoes. Since athlete’s foot grows in dark, warm, and moist places, the shoe presents the ideal environment. The infection tends to develop in the moist areas between toes. This contagious condition usually causes itching, stinging, or burning sensations.
What causes Athlete’s Foot?
A class of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes causes athlete's foot. While these microorganisms normally inhabit your skin, they generally do not cause problems. When the skin is continuously kept moist, this fungi is allowed to grow freely. Damp socks and shoes are prime locations for this organism to grow. Footwear that is poorly ventilated, like plastic shoes, tend to harbor this condition more often.
As athlete’s foot is contagious, walking barefoot on surfaces such as public showers, pools, saunas and locker rooms increases the likelihood of contracting the condition. Borrowing shoes and towels from another person with athlete’s foot has also been known to transmit the fungus from one host to the next. People with a weakened immune system and those with diabetes are at an increased risk for infection.
How do I know if I have Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot can be similar in appearance to many other foot conditions. For instance, tight shoes can cause the feet to sweat; the accumulated moisture and friction can then cause peeling of the skin. Due to the subtlety of differences in foot conditions, contact the podiatrists at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle to diagnose your case accurately and efficiently.
The most common symptom of athlete’s foot is the scaling and peeling of skin between toes. This first phase of symptoms is usually present without pain, itching, or odor. If the infection has spread to the soles of the feet, then redness, blistering, and scaling can occur. If a secondary bacterial infection develops, the fungus can cause a breakdown in skin tissues. The skin between the toes will become soggy and whitened. This progression of symptoms leads to itching and odor. If this breakdown continues, the skin between the toes can crack and begin to ooze.
Occasionally, athlete’s foot will also cause infection of the toenails. This is known as onychomcosis. This nail infection is rather difficult to eradicate. Another problem associated with athlete’s foot is an allergic reaction. It is possible for particles to access the bloodstream and move throughout the body. The associated allergic reaction usually takes the form of blisters on the toes.
How is Athlete’s Foot treated?
This condition is generally treated with topical antifungal medications applied to the dry, scaly areas of the feet. With more severe cases, an oral medication may be required. These oral medications are often avoided as they have some serious side effects, including decreased liver and heart function. Talk with the foot specialists at NorthPointe Foot & Ankle to find out if these medications are right for you.
To relieve damp skin between the toes, the feet can be soaked in a solution of aluminum sub-acetate twice daily for 20 minute increments. If your foot condition continues to get worse over time despite treatment, it is time to schedule an appointment with us. We will be able to diagnose your condition and prescribe the necessary medication. Those patients with diabetes and weak immune systems need to contact our office immediately upon detecting an issue since they are at an increased risk for complications. Home care is not recommended for the diabetic foot.
Can Athlete’s Foot be prevented?
Preventing athlete’s foot is a fairly simple process. Remembering to dry the feet after showers, baths, and time in the pool is a necessity. Never go barefoot in communal showers or pool areas. These warm, moist areas largely increase a person’s risk. Change your socks and shoes when they become damp. Alternating pairs of shoes is another good way to reduce the risk of infection and is also good practice for running enthusiasts. Never share shoes or towels-- athlete’s foot is contagious and can be transferred by these objects.
If you live in the Berkley, Southfield, Royal Oak, Oak Park or Ferndale areas and have questions, give us a call!
Before attempting to eliminate athlete’s foot by yourself, it is vital that you contact our Berkley office for information on the correct course of action, or schedule an appointment online.