Athlete’s Foot: It’s Not Just for Athletes
Contrary to what the name may suggest, athlete’s foot (scientifically known as tinea pedis) is not specific to athletes. It is the most common fungal skin infection, occurring when the tinea fungus grows on the feet. Athlete’s foot spreads easily, either through contact with infected skin scales or contact with fungi in damp areas such as showers and swimming pools. Most often, people get it by walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces, but poorly fitted shoes that do not allow for proper air circulation often times result in athlete’s foot.
Symptoms of Athlete's Foot
Symptoms of the fungus may appear differently depending on an individual’s particular case. Though athlete’s foot usually occurs as an itchy rash on the bottom of the foot, there are three distinct types:
- Toe web infection: Found between the fourth and fifth toes, a toe web infection results in itchy skin that becomes scaly, eventually cracking. This infection can occur simultaneously with a bacterial infection, breaking down the integrity of the skin and worsening the condition.
- Moccasin-type infection: Located on the bottom or heel of the foot and resulting in soreness, a moccasin-type infection involves the skin on the bottom of the foot thickening and cracking. This infection can spread to the toes, ultimately causing the toenails to thicken and turn yellowish in color before they fall out. Toenail infections, as a result of athlete’s foot, generally require a separate treatment.
- Vesicular-type infection: A vesicular-type infection may begin with the sole of the foot developing fluid-filled blisters underneath the skin. However, these blisters can appear anywhere on the foot. This type of athlete’s foot infection can also result in a bacterial infection.
How is Athlete's Foot Diagnosed?
Athlete’s foot has a characteristic appearance, such a peeling skin between the toes, white, yellowish, or greenish discoloration, painful fissures, and an unpleasant smell, making for a clinical diagnosis. If resistance to treatment occurs, other measures can be taken to identify a specific infection such as scrapings for fungal microscopy and culture, swabs for bacterial microscopy and culture, and an ultraviolet examination looking for erythrasma.
Treatment of Athlete's Foot
Many cases of athlete’s foot can be treated and cured at home using over-the-counter powders and creams that may be purchased at a local pharmacy. More severe, persistent cases may require further attention by one of our physicians at American Foot & Leg Specialists. For these cases, you may be prescribed medicine in the form of a pill and/or a topical treatment, which can be applied directly to the affected and surrounding areas.
Simple steps such as wearing sandals around pools and in the locker room, are effective ways of keeping the fungi at bay. Additionally, keeping your shoes dry and well ventilated is very important. Wearing socks that wick moisture from the feet or using a talcum powder that can be applied to the feet, works to not only keep the feet dry, but to also limit your chances of getting athlete’s foot.