If you have a case of athlete’s foot, you are in good company— not because you have something in common with the great athletes of our day, but because an estimated one in five adults shares your affliction.
Even though it’s called ringworm, tinea pedis isn’t caused by a worm, but a fungus that thrives on warm, damp skin. If left untreated, it can spread to other areas of the body, such as the groin, where it’s known as jock itch, or to the scalp where it can cause hair loss. It can contribute to the formation of painful blisters. If the skin is broken, you could also develop other, secondary infections.
Athlete’s Foot Symptoms
But how do you know for sure it’s athlete’s foot?
If the skin between your toes is itching, or if you notice dry, scaly skin or blisters, chances are you have the infection.
(Note: We all carry fungi around with us. It’s only when conditions are right for growth that they get out of control.)
There are actually three different types of athlete’s foot:
- Interdigital (between the toes),
- Plantar (on the sole),
- Vesiculobullous (an itchy condition that also shows up on the sole of the foot).
These are caused by different types of fungi, and the symptoms can vary— from red, flaky, scaly skin to soft, white patches of skin that look as though they’ve been in water too long.
Other nasty symptoms are crusting, oozing, swelling, blisters and odor.
You may notice the infestation between the fourth and fifth toes, which tend to be a good breeding ground.
Since Tinea pedis can persist for a long time, it’s best to take some precautions so that the rest of the household doesn’t get infected, such as washing all bedding and not sharing towels.
These organisms originated in tropical climates, so those are the conditions it favors— even if the warm, moist environment is in your shoes. One reason men are afflicted in greater numbers than women may be because men are more apt to wear heavy, closed footwear.
Athlete’s Foot Diagnosis
In order to diagnose your condition, Doctor will take a scraping for lab analysis. Anti-fungals are the treatment of choice, but if the condition is fairly advanced we will first need to treat any infection or inflammation. Then we can attack tinea pedis with anti-fungal medication.
- After we get the situation under control, here’s how to prevent another outbreak:
- Wash your feet regularly and dry thoroughly between the toes
- Go barefoot around the house whenever possible
- Avoid tight-fitting, airless footwear
- Change your socks after exercise
- Wear thongs in public shower rooms
- Set your shoes out in the sunshine for de-contamination
Skin that is already irritated or weakened is more prone to athlete’s foot. Patients with compromised immune systems are also more susceptible.
If you are taking cortocosteroids, antibiotics, birth control or other drugs that suppress the immune system, you may want to be extra-vigilant about athlete’s foot.