Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a fungal infection that usually starts between the toes on your feet, but can spread to other parts of the foot, particularly the soles of feet and toenails.

A cousin to jock itch and ringworm, athlete’s foot is the most common type of fungal infection.

What Is Athlete’s Foot?

The type of fungus that causes athlete’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 athlete’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 athlete’s foot can take hold.

How Do You Get Athlete’s Foot?

Wearing tight shoes, or shoes/socks that don’t allow air through can help create the conditions for athlete’s foot to develop on your feet.

Athlete’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, athlete’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 athlete’s foot.

What Are The Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Again, the areas most commonly affected by athlete’s foot are between toes, the soles of feet, and occasionally nails.

The first thing most people notice about athlete’s foot is the sensations it causes: a stinging itch, or sometimes burning.

Upon inspection, athlete’s foot causes skin to crack and peel, scale, and flake, looking like excessively dry skin—but picking the skin, or just having a severe case, can lead to the pain of exposed raw tissue.

Athlete’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:

  • Thicken
  • 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 Athlete’s Foot

If you have diabetes, and you think you have athlete’s foot, see a doctor right away. If you have a weakened immune system, athlete’s foot may be more likely to cause secondary infections, so you should see a doctor.

What Are The Complications of Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot can spread to other parts of the body, including the groin.

Secondary infections caused by athlete’s foot can also make treating athlete’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 bacteria—that may be more harmful, or just stronger and harder to kill—to step in and take hold.

Signs of a bacterial infection include increased inflammation and deterioration of the skin.

Proteins from the athlete’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 Athlete’s Foot Treated/Prevented?

Luckily, athlete’s foot is often easily treated. For more than a third of people infected with athlete’s foot, it will clear away when rigorous proper hygiene is enforced.

To prevent and cure athlete’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, it’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 they’re leather, you’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 athlete’s foot, keep your soles covered while infected whether out or around the house—athlete’s foot is highly contagious and can spread to other people and pets if it infects surfaces.

Don’t use creams or lotions on the scaly skin of athlete’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 athlete’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 athlete’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 athlete’s foot, see a doctor (especially if there’s fever or worsened or prolonged symptoms).

For More On Fungal Infections, Click Here

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!


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