It may be called “athlete’s foot,” but the truth is you don’t have to be an athlete to actually develop this fungal infection. It’s true!
And though this annoying condition comes with a misleading name, many people are familiar with the common symptoms associated with it – the burning, itching sensation that just won’t go away. These symptoms tend to be worst immediately after footwear is removed and the skin is exposed to air. However, there are other signs worth noting, like redness, scaly rashes, blisters, and even excessive dryness that can easily be mistaken for eczema.
Often, patients will start at-home treatments to get rid of what they think is a case of dry skin only to find weeks – if not months – later that what they actually do have is a fungal infection. That’s only one of the many reasons why it’s important to understand what athlete’s foot is and how it comes about.
So What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that usually starts to develop between the toes before spreading to other areas of the foot. It is transferred through physical contact, especially from contaminated surfaces or individuals who are already infected. Though any other environment that provides warmth, low light, and moisture is a playground for fungal infestation.
Think for instance how hot and sweaty the inside of your shoes can get throughout the day. Or how warm and humid pool decks, locker room floors, and public showers usually are. These are all environments in which you should protect your feet in order to avoid picking up a nasty fungal infection. But more on that later.
Aside from being an unsightly condition, athlete’s foot is highly contagious and virtually anyone who has feet possesses at least a certain degree of potential risk for it. (Though the condition tends to be more frequently seen in men.)
Other Risk Factors to Keep in Mind
There are other risk factors you should keep in mind, however. Some other contributors for this infection include:
- Frequently wearing tight-fitting shoes. Especially those made of materials that do not allow the feet to breathe.
- Having a weakened immune system that has an impaired ability to fight the infection. An example of this is when diabetes compromises the immune system.
- Walking barefoot in gym locker rooms, showering areas, and on indoor pool decks. We know – we already touched on the subject, but it’s definitely worth emphasizing.
- Being exposed to items that have been contaminated by an infected individual. This includes socks, shoes, and towels, but also rugs, mats, and even bed linens!
As you can see, athlete’s foot doesn’t only happen to those who engage in physical activities. The risk factors involved apply to anyone who has feet and wears shoes.
That being said, there is an increased chance for those who do play sports and exercise on a regularly basis. And this makes sense when you consider the fact that they’re spending a lot of time in locker rooms and that feet become sweaty as they try to stay cool during intense activity.
The good news is there are plenty of steps you can take to treat and prevent this condition from holding you back – no matter how mild or severe your case may be.
Treating and Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Mild-to-moderate cases of this condition are often successfully treated with over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal sprays and powders. These products eliminate the offensive fungus and provide relief for the infection’s symptoms.
When using antifungal products, keep in mind that the instructions should be carefully followed for optimal efficiency. Symptoms will normally start to clear up before the condition is completely treated, but this doesn’t mean the infection has been completely eradicated – make sure to follow the listed directions with regards to length of treatment, too.
Now, for more stubborn or severe cases – ones that do not go away, or have excessive swelling, redness, and/or cause fever (signs indicating an internal infection) – or if you are diabetic, then you should come visit our office for professional treatment. We are equipped with the best knowledge and tools available to get your feet back on track.
But even better than treating an irritating case of athlete’s foot is to prevent it from happening in the first place! And you can easily do this by:
- Wearing clean shower shoes or sandals whenever walking through high-risk areas.
- Never sharing socks, shoes, or used towels with anyone else (including family members).
- Using antifungal spray or powder on your feet and in your shoes.
- Changing socks often (especially when the pair you are wearing becomes damp or wet).
- Wearing shoes made from breathable materials, like leather, nylon mesh, etc.
- Alternating between two pairs of shoes, allowing a 24-hour window for each pair to dry completely between uses.
- Thoroughly washing your feet every day, paying special attention to those areas between the toes.
After washing your feet, make sure you dry them completely (again, paying special attention to those areas between the toes). You should also apply some moisturizing lotion (this time avoiding those areas between the toes) to prevent any development of dry, cracked skin which will leave your body even more exposed to potential fungal infections.
Need Help? Come Visit Our Office!
For more information about athlete’s foot, treatment for fungal infections in your lower limbs, or to request an appointment for any of the comprehensive podiatric treatments we offer, please don’t hesitate to give us a call at one of our three convenient locations:
- McPherson Office – (620) 241-313
- Herington Office – (785) 258-5130
- Hillsboro Office – (620) 947-3114
If you prefer to reach us online, you can take advantage of our request form, too!