What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a contagious fungal infection that develops between the toes and can affect (especially the little toe and the toe next to it) and can affect toenails as well as surrounding skin. The name stems from the fact that it commonly harasses people who have a dynamic lifestyle and engage into sports, swimming and similar activities which subsequently can result in sweaty feet wrapped around in tight shoes – a suitable place for fungal infections to materialize.
What are the main causes?
Athlete’s foot springs from a range of fungi that are classified as
“dermatophytes”. These flourish in warm and moist environments
such as showers, pools, locker rooms, and obviously, tight training
shoes and have the tendency to multiply fast, causing skin cells to
degenerate. The disease is also transmissible, meaning one can pick
it up by sharing towels and shoes or by walking barefoot on
Who is likely to develop the infection?
Sadly, almost anyone can contract the disease. Still, some
precipitating factors or particular habits can further contribute to
someone being more easily afflicted with it. These can be:
- Genetic predisposition
- Weak immune system
- Poor nutrition
- Leading a very active lifestyle
- Walking barefoot on locker room and shower floors or around swimming pools
- Small skin or toenail injuries
- Sharing socks, shoes, towels or even clippers with other people
- Not taking proper care of personal hygiene
- Wearing tight snickers
How can someone tell they have athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot usually manifests itself through easily discernible
signs that typically involve:
Itchiness coupled with burning sensation between the toes
Thickened soles skin
Peeling skin between the toes and on the soles
Thickened and brittle toenails
Toenail discoloration (white or yellow)
At times, coming up with your own diagnosis can be slightly trickier
since some of the aforementioned symptoms can be also triggered by
other reasons. In that case, a skin test may be needed to determine
if you actually are afflicted by athlete’s foot.
Is there any more to it?
Unfortunately, yes. As mentioned earlier, the infection, no matter
how mild it may initially appear, should not be overlooked because it
can spring unwanted complications. For instance, an allergic reaction
can bring about blistering on someone’s hands. Moreover, the
fissures in the skin provide bacteria with a wide entry point which
can increase the risk of developing cellulitis. And if a bacterial
infection spreads into the lymphatic drainage system, it may induce
As the old adage goes, prevention is better than cure. So, here is a
list of the simplest safety precautions you can follow so that you
limit the chances of athlete’s foot ensuing in the first place:
Shop for footwear made of breathable materials which prevent
moisture from developing inside them
Disinfect your shoes using special products such as sprays
Apply anti-fungal powder on your feet on a regular basis
Avoid walking barefoot in locker room showers and public areas
Frequently wash your feet with soap, drying them carefully and
emphasizing in the areas between your toes
Avoid sharing socks and shoes with other people
Opt for a dry pair of socks whenever sweat build up inside your
Wash your socks in 150°F water
Clip your toenails carefully using your own nail clippers
Refrain from scratching the rashed areas; aim at soothing your feet
by soaking them in cool water instead
Try use two or more pairs of trainers when working out so that you
always slip into some nice dry shoes before your training begins
Despite athlete’s foot not being regarded as a very serious skin
infection, it shouldn’t be left untreated since it can spread to
other areas of the body and bring about unexpected complications. The
most common ways to do that are initially several OTC
(over-the-counter) products, topical or oral drugs obtainable on
prescription or home treatments and alternative remedies.
The most common way to combat the condition is using OTC anti-fungal
products. You can purchase products like ointments, gels sprays or
powders and apply them on the affected areas of your feet daily or
twice a day for as long it takes to eliminate the rash (typically,
the remedy needs to be continued for an extra week or ten days after
the infection subsides). The most common OTC anti-fungal agents are
miconazole, clotrimazole, terbinafine, tolnaftate, butenafine etc.
There can be cases where OTC medications fail to do the trick, so
here’s a list of the most standard drugs, either topical or oral,
your doctor may prescribe:
topical clotrimazole or miconazole
topical medications aiming at diminishing soreness
oral anti-fungal creams and powders (itraconazole, fluconazole,
In general, topical medicines are the more appropriate solution.
Treatment usually takes a full month before the symptoms abate. If
the infection persists, oral antifungals are the next stop, while
treatment may take up to two months and is determined by the severity
of the condition.
Needless to say that prescription medications’ use should abide by
the guidlelines your doctor designates. Since some of the
aforementioned medications can lead to side-effects, it is imperative
that you follow your physician’s mandates to lessen potential side
There is a number of homemade remedies that have been gaining
popularity over the years and can help you deal with the infection in
an effective and natural way. For example, you can soak your feet in
salt water or diluted vinegar so as to kill the root of the infection
and reduce inflammation; alternatively, you can apply the remedy on
the affected area. There are also essential oil remedies (such as
lavender, tea tree oi, which you can rub onto the skin so as to
alleviate itching and swelling, clove, oregano, garlic, which is very
effective in killing bacteria, etc.) that can help fight fungal
infections. A special reference should be made to coconut oil, which
is a superb way of nourishing dry skin and help it regenerate while
also boosting your immune system.
Athlete’s foot is an infection that, though not very distressing
initially, can be quite annoying, persistent and painful if left
untreated. In most cases, anti-fungal treatment is the sure way to
go, delivering sound and dependable cure. However, the likelihood of
the infection reappearing can not be ruled out, so it is necessary to
keep in touch with your doctor for optimum results.