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5 FAQS About Athlete's Foot

Man with Athlete's Foot
Despite its name, you don't necessarily have to be an athlete to get the condition called athlete's foot. If you have ever wondered what exactly this condition is, and what causes it, then read on. Here are the answers to five frequently asked questions.

1. What Exactly Is Athlete's Foot?  

Athlete's foot is a contagious fungal infection that is actually a form of ringworm. The condition affects the skin on the feet and between the toes. Like most types of fungi, athlete's foot thrives in environments that are warm and moist.

2. What Causes Athlete's Foot?

This condition is usually caused by feet that sweat too much due to wearing tight-fitting or constrictive shoes. Athlete's foot can also be caused by:
  • Sharing socks, towels, or footwear with someone who has the condition
  • Walking barefoot in places where this fungus grows, such as swimming pools and locker rooms
  • Having wet feet for extended periods of time
  • Having another type of skin or nail condition of the foot
If you have a habit of walking around barefoot, then you'll be glad to know that less than one percent of people who commonly walk around without shoes or socks will get athlete's foot. This is mainly because conditions have to be just right in order to get it.

That being said, athlete's foot is the most common type of fungal infection and 70 percent of people are bound to get it at some time or another.

3. How Do I Know If I Have Athlete's Foot?

One of the most common symptoms of this fungal infection is itching between the toes or on the soles of the feet. There may also be a stinging or burning sensation. The infection often begins as a scaly red rash between the toes. Other symptoms that affect the feet include:
  • Itchy blisters
  • Cracking or peeling skin
  • Dry or raw skin
  • Discolored toenails
If you do have athlete's foot, then a doctor can usually diagnose it just by knowing the symptoms. Another way of diagnosing athlete's foot is with a particular type of skin test called a skin lesion KOH exam.

4. How Is Athlete's Foot Treated?

This condition can be treated in a variety of ways including over-the-counter (OTC) medications, prescription medications, and home care. In order to effectively fight the fungal infection, it's important to treat it with OTC medications that contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or butenafine.

If you try OTC medications and they don't work, then your doctor may need to prescribe antifungal topical ointments or oral antifungal medications. If blisters are present, then oral antibiotics may be necessary. In addition, you may need to soak your feet in diluted vinegar or salt water, which can help to dry up the blisters.

While it is rare to have complications as a result of athlete's foot, there are still instances when complications can arise. Some people may develop an allergic reaction to the fungus or a secondary bacterial infection may develop. Because of possible complications, it's important to treat athlete's foot right away. 

5. How Can I Prevent Athlete's Foot?

You can do a few things to prevent Athlete's foot. Some of these precautions include:
  • Keep your feet dry and let them air out
  • Change out of sweaty socks
  • Wear waterproof shoes in warm, moist environments
  • Don't ever share your footwear with others
When you take these precautions, you can avoid contracting athlete's foot. If you have symptoms of athlete's foot or any other type of foot condition, then don't hesitate to schedule an appointment with one of our experienced foot doctors at InStride Family Foot & Ankle Center. We look forward to helping you.