What Is Athlete’s Foot?

athletes-footMany people will have athlete’s foot sometime during their life. Athlete’s foot is a common skin infection of the webs of the toes and soles of the feet, but it can spread to the palms, groin, and body.

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s Foot is caused by fungus that grows on or in the skin. It thrives best in warm, wet places, such as the area between the toes. Fungal infections of the feet are contagious and can spread from person to person by walking on contaminated objects and floors, such as near swimming pools or in locker rooms. Once your feet are contaminated, the fungi can grow. It tends to thrive iif your shoes are tight and do not allow air to move around your feet.

What Are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot may cause foot itching, burning, pain and scaling. The skin may peel and crack. Your symptoms will depend on which type of athlete’s foot you have. There are 3 types:

  • Toe web infection occurs between the toes. The skin becomes scaly, peels, and cracks. Some people also may have an infection with bacteria. This can make the skin break down even more.
  • Moccasin-type infection may start with a little soreness on your foot. Then the skin on the bottom or heel of your foot may become thick and crack. In bad cases, the toenails get infected and thicken. They may even crumble and fall out.
  • Vesicular infection usually begins with a sudden outbreak of large fluid-filled blisters under the skin of your foot. You may also get a bacterial infection with this type of athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is contagious. It can be spread through direct contact with the infection and by skin particles left on towels, shoes or floors. Walking barefoot increases your chance of contracting athlete’s foot. The risk of developing athlete’s foot can also depend on your susceptibility. For example, people who have impaired immune systems or diabetes are at greater risk.

How Is Athlete’s Foot Diagnosed?

Athletes FootMost of the time, a doctor can tell that you have athlete’s foot by looking at your feet. He or she will also ask about your symptoms and any past fungal infections you may have had. If your athlete’s foot looks unusual, or if treatment did not help you before, your doctor may take a skin or nail sample to test for fungi. Not all skin problems on the foot are athlete’s foot. If you think you have athlete’s foot but have never had it before, it’s a good idea to have your doctor look at it.

How Is Athlete’s Foot Treated?

The type of treatment will depend on its type and severity. Most cases of athlete’s foot can be treated at home using an antifungal medicine to kill the fungus or slow its growth.

For severe athlete’s foot that doesn’t improve, your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal medicine (pills).

Even if your symptoms improve or stop shortly after you begin using antifungal medicine, it is important that you complete the full course of medicine. This increases the chance that athlete’s foot will not return. Re-infection is common, and athlete’s foot needs to be fully treated each time symptoms occur.