Athlete's Foot 101: Causes, Symptoms, Treatments

Despite its name, just about anyone can suffer from the frustrating effects of athlete's foot. This uncomfortable condition occurs on the skin of your feet, promoting a number of untoward health symptoms. In particularly bad cases, the affected individual may even find it difficult to walk.

Now that warm weather has officially arrived, it's more important than ever to watch out for the telltale symptoms of athlete's foot. Here's everything you should know about this uncomfortable -- but completely curable -- condition.

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What causes athlete's foot?

Athlete's foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a type of common fungal infection which occurs on the skin of your feet. This condition is easily passed from person to person, making it a highly contagious type of fungus. In fact, the same fungus that causes athlete's foot is also the culprit behind ringworm and jock itch. The fungus thrives in moist, dark environments, making it difficult to be rid of if you wear enclosed shoes often, especially in the summer.

This fungal infection is common among athletes simply because they often use shared showers and locker rooms. Though these moist environments are cleaned often, it's easy to miss a patch here or there, especially when countless people use these facilities each day. The fungi which cause athlete's foot is also commonly found in public restrooms, community pools and gyms.

Though anyone can suffer the ill side effects of athlete's foot, particularly at-risk individuals include:

  • Athletes

  • Swimmers

  • Men

  • People who wear tightly fitting shoes on a daily basis

  • People who wear the same shoes every day

  • People who share linens, mats and shoes with other people

  • People who like to walk barefoot, especially in community spaces

Keep in mind that athlete's foot is a common fungus for your feet, but this infection can easily spread to other parts of your body. This includes your hands, your nail beds, your underarms, and even your groin.

If you have a compromised immune system or diabetes, you should take extra care to avoid getting athlete's foot. Prompt treatment can help prevent any complications from arising.


Common symptoms of athlete's foot

Athlete's foot has a few telltale symptoms, most notably its itchiness. This itchiness often occurs between the toes or on the soles of the feet, though any part of your foot may itch when you have this infection. This itchiness often leads to stinging and burning sensations.

Other symptoms include red, scaly patches or blisters settling on dry skin. In many cases, these symptoms can lead to cracking and peeling, especially between and beneath the toes where moisture has led to raw skin. In particularly severe cases, you might experience discoloration or thickening toenails that are prone to pull away from the nailbed.


Treatment options

There are a number of treatment options available to cope with the symptoms of athlete's foot. These include a variety of home treatments and topical medicines.

Home remedies: Your doctor might recommend you try using talcum powder in your shoes and socks to prevent the infection from spreading. This is because talcum powder is one of the best ways to reduce moisture in your feet. Without a moist environment in which to thrive, the fungal infection cannot hope to spread or worsen. This is also an effective preventive measure for stopping potential infections in the first place.

Some people will also try soaking their feet in baking soda mixtures. Some studies have shown that baking soda has antifungal properties, according to Medical News Today. If these home remedies don't work within two weeks of repeated treatment, you should rely on medicinal treatments provided by your doctor.

Medical treatments: More often than not, you will be prescribed a topical antifungal cream. These over-the-counter creams are often able to rid your body of the fungus within a week or so.

Here are just some of the OTC options your doctor may recommend:

  • Butenafine

  • Clotrimazole

  • Miconazole

  • Terbinafine

  • Tolnaftate

If these options don't work, then your doctor may prescribe a prescription-strength ointment or oral medication. In particularly severe cases, your doctor might also prescribe medications to cope with the symptoms of your infections. This might include a steroid to reduce swelling and inflammation or an antibiotic to reduce the risk of infection.

However, the best way to stop athlete's foot from harming your health is preventing it from the start. You can stop athlete's foot from spreading by drying your feet thoroughly, switching out the shoes you wear on a day-to-day basis, and wearing shower shoes when using communal showers. If you only have a few pairs of shoes, treat them every evening with a layer of talcum powder to stop moisture from accumulating in the nooks and crannies of your shoes.


Common myths surrounding athlete's foot

Even though anyone can experience the pain of athlete's foot, there are many persistent myths surrounding this infection. Here are some of the top myths you may have heard regarding this fungus:

  • Showering often can prevent athlete's foot: Unfortunately, athlete's foot will persist no matter how often you clean between your toes. Because it's a fungus, simple anti-bacterial soaps aren't strong enough to stop the infection. And because showering is one of the top ways to contract athlete's foot, repeated exposure to communal showers makes this even worse. On top of that, frequent showering might lead to higher levels of foot moisture, especially if you don't let your feet dry properly after showering.

  • Athlete's foot will go away on its own: Unless you seek out the help from a medical professional, your athlete's foot won't clear up on its own. Even if you find ways to mitigate the worst of your athlete's foot symptoms, this condition will persist without antifungal medications or treatments.

  • Cotton socks are the best way to stop athlete's foot: Even though we're always told that we should wear cotton everything, this fabric will actually keep sweat and moisture against your feet. This can cause the fungus to spread. It's far better to wear socks made from moisture-wicking synthetic fibers.


Contact your local walk-in health clinic today

Are you worried that you're suffering from athlete's foot? You're not alone. Countless people each day may discover the itchy rash that suggests the presence of athlete's foot. Even though there are many ways to treat athlete's foot, it’s always a good idea to consult with a medical professional.

When you want prompt medical treatment from top doctors you can trust, rely on Immediate Clinic to treat your athlete's foot today.

Immediate Clinic can also help with other minor illnesses and injuries, as well as some preventive health services. If you’re a parent of a middle school or high school athlete, Immediate Clinic offers sports physicals. Walk in or book an appointment online today.