What Causes Athlete's FootAthlete's foot, also called tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection of the skin of the feet. Any "tinea" infection is generally caused by a fungus that grows on the skin, and it is sometimes called ringworm. Tinea infections of the skin are named by their location such as pedis, which means foot. This type of fungus is contagious and therefore it generally is contracted through direct or indirect contact in public places like showers or locker rooms. Once transmitted, the fungus grows in warm and moist environments, including footwear. Athlete's foot may last a very short time or may be long-term and recurring.
Symptoms of Athlete's Foot
- Itching, most notably in the creases between your toes
- Redness and scaling of the skin in affected areas
- Blisters or open sores
- Cracked or blistered skin
- Discoloration, thickening, crumbling of the nails as the fugus progresses
Treating Athlete's FootThe best treatment for athlete's foot is proper foot care and hygiene in order to prevent the infection in the first place. Once athlete's foot has developed, self-care can usually help to eradicate the fungus. The skin of the foot should be kept clean and dry. Wash the feet with warm soap and water and rinse completely. Dry the area carefully by patting dry, rather than rubbing, the outer layers of skin. Wear clean socks and change socks and shoes often. Over-the-counter antifungal powders or creams, may help control the infection. Ask the pharmacist for information about medication for athlete's foot, and follow the application instructions. It may take several weeks for this treatment to be effective. Severe or chronic infection may require further treatment by your doctor.
How to Help Prevent Athlete's FootProper foot care and hygiene will help prevent athlete's foot. Use Proper Footwear for your sport, and change your shoes and socks if they become too wet or sweaty. Another tip is to keep two pairs of shoes and switch them daily so you always have a clean (or at least dry) pair for activity. Keeping your feet dry is important so that the fungus has no place to live. Using a talc powder can also help keep the feet dry. You should also wear some sort of non-slip sandal in locker rooms to avoid picking up the fungus from someone else.
Athlete's foot is one of the most common of all foot ailments. Generally it is contracted in public places. Some cases, however, do indicate an underlying problem. If you are at high risk for diabetes or HIV infection you should see your doctor to receive a proper diagnosis and rule out any underlying conditions.
Noble, S, et al. "Diagnosis and Management of Common Tinea Infections" American Family Physician. July, 1998.