A cousin to jock itch and ringworm, athleteâ€™s foot is the most common type of fungal infection.
What Is Athleteâ€™s Foot?
The type of fungus that causes athleteâ€™s foot is usually either Trichophyton rubrum or Trichophyton mentagrophytes, mold like fungi dermatophytes. Like many bacteria and other fungi, the type of fungi that causes athleteâ€™s foot is naturally present on your skin.
When balance is disrupted (usually from a condition change such as having chronically moist or dirty feet, or from a weakened immune system) the natural cultures on our skin can get out of control, and diseases like athleteâ€™s foot can take hold.
How Do You Get Athleteâ€™s Foot?
Wearing tight shoes, or shoes/socks that donâ€™t allow air through can help create the conditions for athleteâ€™s foot to develop on your feet.
Athleteâ€™s foot is also highly contagious: you can catch it from contact with other people who have it, or from sharing belongings with an infected person, such as towels and shoes. Most commonly, athleteâ€™s foot is spread from walking on contaminated surfaces such as gym mats, public pools and showers while barefoot.
Men are the most affected by athleteâ€™s foot.
What Are The Symptoms of Athleteâ€™s Foot?
Again, the areas most commonly affected by athleteâ€™s foot are between toes, the soles of feet, and occasionally nails.
The first thing most people notice about athleteâ€™s foot is the sensations it causes: a stinging itch, or sometimes burning.
Upon inspection, athleteâ€™s foot causes skin to crack and peel, scale, and flake, looking like excessively dry skinâ€”but picking the skin, or just having a severe case, can lead to the pain of exposed raw tissue.
Athleteâ€™s foot can also cause inflammation (redness and swelling) at the site of infection, as well as itchy, pussy blisters.
When toenails are infected, they may:
- Look ragged and crumbly
- Pull away from the nail bed
- Look discolored
If just the nails are showing symptoms, it may be a different infection such as onychomycosis.
Diabetes and Athleteâ€™s Foot
If you have diabetes, and you think you have athleteâ€™s foot, see a doctor right away. If you have a weakened immune system, athleteâ€™s foot may be more likely to cause secondary infections, so you should see a doctor.
What Are The Complications of Athleteâ€™s Foot?
Athleteâ€™s foot can spread to other parts of the body, including the groin.
Secondary infections caused by athleteâ€™s foot can also make treating athleteâ€™s foot more complicated. Secondary infections, usually bacterial, are caused when the fungus kills off the natural bacteria that lives on your skin, allowing foreign bacteriaâ€”that may be more harmful, or just stronger and harder to killâ€”to step in and take hold.
Signs of a bacterial infection include increased inflammation and deterioration of the skin.
Proteins from the athleteâ€™s foot can enter the bloodstream, causing an allergic reaction in some people. The main symptom of the reaction are blisters on hands, feet, chest, and arms.
How Is Athleteâ€™s Foot Treated/Prevented?
Luckily, athleteâ€™s foot is often easily treated. For more than a third of people infected with athleteâ€™s foot, it will clear away when rigorous proper hygiene is enforced.
To prevent and cure athleteâ€™s foot, keep feet clean and dry. This might mean changing socks multiple times a day, and wearing open-toed shoes. Shoes such as flip-flops should be worn at pools and in public showers (in your own home, itâ€™s recommended you clean the shower floor daily and the walls at least weekly). If you wear closed-toed shoes, alternate pairs daily to let moisture dry out (bonus: if theyâ€™re leather, youâ€™ll help preserve their life).
Some find it useful to use a powder to absorb excess moisture on their feet. In preventing fungal infections, exfoliating can help as dead skin cells are a great place for fungus to live.
Although going barefoot may help prevent athleteâ€™s foot, keep your soles covered while infected whether out or around the houseâ€”athleteâ€™s foot is highly contagious and can spread to other people and pets if it infects surfaces.
Donâ€™t use creams or lotions on the scaly skin of athleteâ€™s foot without an anti-fungal element-these can add moisture and worsen the infection.
Good natural antifungals include garlic, grapefruit seed extract and citrus acids, as well as colloidal silver.
Doctors generally recommend starting with over-the-counter treatments for athleteâ€™s foot, and they will prescribe stronger anti-fungals if the infection persists. Be careful that oral anti-fungals can be hard on your liver, among other possible effects.
Whatever you do to cure athleteâ€™s foot, make sure that you continue doing it at least four weeks after symptoms disappear-fungus can be very hardy, and you may relapse to a stronger strain if you neglect treatment as soon as itching stops or redness disappears.
There are other possible infections, so if you are unsure about identifying athleteâ€™s foot, see a doctor (especially if thereâ€™s fever or worsened or prolonged symptoms).
Where are other high-risk places to get athlete’s foot and how do you avoid them? Any good home remedies out there? Share in the comments!