Athlete’s Foot: Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention Tips

The athlete’s foot is a common fungal skin infection that usually begins between the toes but can spread to other areas when left untreated. It commonly occurs during spring or summer when the feet get sweaty while confined in shoes, providing the perfect environment for the Trichophyton fungus. Although an athlete’s foot is not life-threatening, it can become bothersome and spread to other areas when left unresolved. To help you out, Foot and Ankle Specialists put together a personalized treatment plan to avoid the possibility of complications.

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot can affect one or both feet, causing signs and symptoms such as:

  • Peeling, cracked, or scaly skin between your toes
  • Blisters
  • Itchiness immediately after taking off socks or shoes
  • Dry or scaly skin at the bottom of your feet, extending up the side
  • Inflamed skin may appear purplish, grayish, or reddish depending on your skin color

Ensure to see your doctor if you have a rash on your foot that doesn’t improve within two weeks of using an over-the-counter fungal product. If you have diabetes, see your doctor upon the first signs of the athlete’s foot to avoid complications like non-healing wounds. You should also seek medical attention if you have signs of an infection; this includes fever, swelling of the affected area, and pus.

What causes an athlete’s foot?

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes – a type of fungi that causes ringworm and jock itch. The fungus thrives in warm, moist conditions, meaning wearing damp socks puts you at risk of this problem. Athlete’s foot is contagious – you can get this infection through contact with an infected person or on surfaces like floors, shoes, and towels. You are likely to spread the infection to other body parts if you scratch or pick the infected parts of your foot. Anyone can get athlete’s foot, but your risk is elevated if you:

  • Sweat heavily, especially on your feet
  • Wear closed shoes frequently
  • Walk barefoot in public areas like saunas, swimming pools, showers, communal baths and showers, and locker rooms.
  • Share clothes, shoes, rugs, mats, and bed lined with someone who has the fungal infection

Tips for preventing athlete’s foot

  • Keep your feet clean. Use warm, soapy water to wash your feet daily and dry thoroughly, especially between your toes. If prone to athlete’s foot, apply medicated foot powder between your toes.
  • Change socks regularly. If your feet get sweaty, change your socks at least once daily. Wear socks made from cotton; this helps keep your feet drier. Cotton and silk socks may be expensive, but they keep your feet dry and airy. They reduce the chances of getting athlete’s foot and keep your skin cool and comfortable during hot days
  • Air your feet. If you frequently wear enclosed shoes, consider wearing sandals to let your feet air as much as possible.
  • Alternate pairs of shoes. Use different shoes from day to day to give them time to dry.

If you have further questions about the athlete’s foot, consult your Foot and Ankle Specialists provider.

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