Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that starts between the toes and can progress to the rest of the foot. Fungus prefers to grow in a dark, warm, moist environment, which means our feet are the equivalent of The Ritz Carlton for fungus! Athlete’s foot is contagious and is often picked up in community locker rooms and swimming pools. It can affect any age, but is most common in teenagers and adult males.
The symptoms can range from very mild to extremely irritating. These include:
- Dry skin with or without scaling
- Itching, stinging and burning
- Inflammation and redness
If you have any of these symptoms and it doesn’t seem to be improving after a few weeks of at home treatment, it is time to see your podiatrist. If you have any chronic medical conditions such as Diabetes or Peripheral Vascular Disease you should seek medical attention sooner to prevent the progression to serious complications (e.g. ulcers).
Once your podiatrist has determined that you do indeed have Athlete’s foot, the treatment options are as follows:
- For a mild case of Athlete’s foot an over-the-counter treatment may be considered as a primary treatment.
- If the over-the-counter medication doesn’t seem to be taking care of the rash, or you have a more severe case, your podiatrist will likely prescribe a prescription-strength topical or oral antifungal agent.
Athlete’s foot can be difficult to prevent, but the following suggestions can help decrease the risk of exposing yourself to the fungus.
- Wear flip flops/shoes in public areas where the fungus is commonly found (public pools, locker rooms and public showers). The fungus requires direct contact with the skin in order to infect, so keeping a layer between your skin and the wet surface can help prevent infection.
- Keep your feet dry, and change your socks regularly (especially if your feet sweat a lot!). As mentioned earlier, this fungus requires moisture to grow. The less moisture in contact with your feet, the lower your risk.
- Don’t share shoes. Athlete’s foot is contagious, so sharing footwear puts you at a greater risk of picking up the fungus.
- Wash your feet daily with soap and water.