Understanding Athlete’s Foot: Causes And Treatments

boys walking next to wet pool, a high risk area for athlete's foot

Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is an infection of the skin and feet that a variety of different fungi can cause, but you don’t have to be an athlete to get it. Although athlete’s foot can affect any portion of the foot, the infection most often affects the space between the toes. It’s typically characterized by skin fissures or scales that can be red and itchy.

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

Most cases are caused by various fungi, all belonging to a group called dermatophytes, which also causes jock itch and ringworm. The fungi thrive in closed, warm, moist environments and feed on keratin, a protein found in hair, nails, and skin.

Athlete’s foot is spread through contact with infected skin scales or contact with fungi in damp areas like locker rooms, swimming pools, and showers. It is contagious, so it’s possible to get the infection from touching the affected skin of someone who has it, even if they don’t have an active case. 

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), athlete’s foot can be a chronic infection that recurs frequently. Treatment may include topical creams that are applied to the surface of the skin or oral medications. In addition, appropriate hygiene techniques may help to prevent or control athlete’s foot.

Prevention Is Important

  • Nails should be clipped short and kept clean. Nails can house and spread the infection.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in locker rooms or public showers (wear sandals).
  • Avoid wearing damp socks.
  • Wear shoes that fit correctly.
  • Wash and dry your feet after exercising.

How To Treat Athlete’s Foot

  • Keep feet clean, dry, and cool.
  • Avoid using swimming pools, public showers, or foot baths.
  • Wear sandals when possible or air shoes out by alternating them every 2-3 days.
  • Avoid wearing closed shoes and socks made from fabric that doesn’t dry easily (for example, nylon).
  • Treat the infection with recommended medication.

You should treat athlete’s foot as soon as you notice even minor symptoms. It’s fine to try over-the-counter products, or you may have a home remedy you like to use. Your symptoms should subside in one to two weeks.

Call Your Podiatrist At Aboite Podiatry If:

  • Your rash persists for more than two weeks
  • The rash has turned into sores or ulcers that leak fluid
  • Your rash has spread to your hands or groin
  • Your toenails are infected
  • You have diabetes and the rash looks infected