Do you see an infection in the skin of your feet right between the toes? Chances are that it is tinea pedis or Athlete’s foot.
This fungal infection is contagious hence it can spread from the skin between the toes to even your hands.
Given its name, it is usually more common in athletes or people who usually have sweaty feet in tight shoes.
This article discusses the causes and symptoms of this infection so that you can heal it in time and prevent its spread.
Keep reading below to know more!
Athlete’s Foot Symptoms
The infection can affect both of your feet together or only one.
In between the toes you can see cracked skin. There may also be scaling and peeling on soles and toes.
Moreover, you may have dry and raw skin that is also scaly at the bottom soles and on the sides of the feet.
There is a burning or stinging sensation at the site of the infection.
What’s more, you may feel itchiness right after you take off your socks and shoes.
The blisters on your feet will also itch.
Your toenails will also crumble, be thick in appearance.
Not only that, the toenails will pull away from the nail bed.
The nails discolor and so does the skin. Therefore, your skin changes color to red, purple or gray at the site of infection with respect to your skin color.
All of these signs indicate the presence of a fungal infection. You can start using an OTC anti-fungal cream.
Though, if you do not see any improvement by using the ointment for 2 weeks, it is time to contact your doctor.
If you have diabetes then consult your doctor regarding the allergy. Plus, also look for other signs such as pus, fever and swelling in order to timely treat the condition.
People with diabetes need to be wary of other foot infections such as gangrene. Thus, visit your doctor for any signs of infection.
Causes of Athlete’s Foot
The tinea fungus starts growing onto your feet.
This is a type of dermatophytes that is also behind the skin conditions ringworm and jock itch.
While the fungus grows more in humid conditions such as damp socks and shoes, it can also transfer from one person to another or contaminated surfaces.
Since it is contagious, you can get the infection if you touch a towel, socks or even the floor that the contaminated foot has touched.
Moreover, if you tend to scratch and pick your infected parts then there are chances the infection will spread beyond your feet.
The scratching can contaminate your hands and nails thereby spreading the infection to your hands.
You are more at risk of infection if you are an athlete because your feet are usually in the optimal condition for the fungus’ growth.
The fungus prefers warm and humid conditions. Thus, if you wear tight and enclosed footwear whereby your feet are prone to get sweaty, you can get the infection.
What’s more, if you know someone who has the infection but still shares clothes, linens, shoes and socks with them then too you are at risk.
Not only that, sharing rugs and mats can also spread it from one person to another.
Given the optimal conditions, the fungus grows in, showers, swimming pools, locker rooms and communal baths are usually the spots where you may find it.
Therefore, if you frequent these places, walking barefoot then you are at risk of getting symptoms of athlete’s foot.
The athlete’s foot may get worse turning into a bacterial infection. Plus, spreading to other body parts such as your hands and the groin, especially if you clean your body with a towel.
Hence, reach out to your doctor for diagnosis if you do not find relief with OTC ointments.
Diagnosing and Treating The Infection
Your doctor can diagnose the condition simply by looking at it.
However, your doctor may scrape a section of your skin and send it for testing in order to distinguish whether it is another infection.
This is the skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. By placing the part of the skin in that solution.
The fungal cells remain untouched but all other cells are destroyed in the potassium hydroxide solution.
You can try treating it with nonprescription ointments and also try some self-care.
Though, if there is no improvement in a few days your doctor will give prescription-strength ointments like econazole or ciclopirox.
These creams are usually enough but if they are not, then they will prescribe antifungal medicines like itraconazole.
The doctor can also suggest you take topical ointments as well as oral medicine.
If there is inflammation and pain, then your doctor will suggest topical steroid medication to deal with these symptoms.
There is also a chance of the fungal infection worsening leading to a bacterial infection. In that case, you will need oral antibiotics to get rid of blisters and raw skin.
Other than that, you can implement some home remedies and lifestyle changes so that you can treat the existing condition and prevent it.
Let’s find about these in more detail below!
Home Remedies to Implement
Wash Your Feet
Keeping your feet clean is the first step. Make sure to wash them thoroughly.
Do this at least twice a day and remember to dry completely using a towel especially between the toes.
However, keep the towel only for your use.
After you dry your feet, it is time to apply the ointment.
Applying Antifungal Medication
Apply the ointment, gel, spray, antifungal cream, powder or lotion to your feet twice a day. Cover all of the areas with the infection completely.
Be patient during the application process because it can take up to 2 or 4 weeks till the infection persists. The rash may clear up within a week.
After you apply the ointment, it is time to wear your socks and shoes. Remember, the wrong shoes and socks can make your infection worse and cause it often.
Wearing the right footwear
If you can avoid wearing tight sneakers all the time, then do that. Instead, go for lightweight shoes that are ventilated.
Refrain from wearing shoes that are usually of synthetic material such as rubber. Rather let your feet out in the open more often by choosing to wear sandals or flip flops.
Plus change your socks if your feet tend to get sweaty often. Do that at least once if not more and do not share your socks, or your shoes.
This fungal infection is quite contagious hence, it is best to avoid sharing any shoes. In fact, you should also change your shoes daily in order to give them enough time to dry.
Plus whenever you are in a public place where waterproof sandals so that you do not spread the infection, or catch it.
This applies to public showers, lockers and pools.
The rash will itch but you need to resist scratching it.
Scratching can spread the infection from your toes to your hands.
Don’t let any other body part touch the infection.
Rather simply, apply the ointment and if it gets very itchy, you can put your feet in cold water.
It can provide temporary relief from itchiness while your infection heals.
These remedies can help you cope with the symptoms. However, preventing the infection is much easier than treating it.
Preventing Athlete’s Foot
- Washing your feet thoroughly daily
- Letting your feet air out by wearing sandals occasionally
- Use different pairs of shoes so that the previous ones dry out
- Change your socks daily too
- Wear shoes according to the place you are going, for instance, wear waterproof shoes in public places
- Don’t share your bed linens and towels and shoes with an infected person
In order to prevent the infection, you should not provide your feet with the optimal conditions for fungal growth.
For instance, do not wear tight shoes whereby you will feet will sweat a lot.
Rather, let your feet out in the air often and wear sandals and shoes that are properly ventilated.
Similarly, change socks often. Rather wear moisture-wicking socks.
These socks made of cotton help to absorb the sweat more than nylon socks.
Whenever you come back home always wash your feet. Clean them properly with soap, warm water, and then dry them with a towel.
When deciding to go outside, do not stick with a single pair of shoes.
Rather, go for a different pair of shoes in order to give the previous ones enough time to dry out.
Plus, you may want to beware of what you wear in public spaces.
Public showers and pools are the places where you can get a fungal infection.
Hence, wear only waterproof shoes there.
Also, it is best to not share your unwashed bed linens, towels and shoes with anyone, even your family.
If there is an infection, it can spread.
An athlete’s foot is a curable fungal infection.
However, if it does not go away after 2 weeks of treatment, consult your doctor in case it is serious condition.