Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis in medical terms, is a fungal infection. Attacking the skin of your feet, you develop this infection when fungal particles make their way through small openings in your skin. But how can you tell if you have Athlete’s foot? Usually, it’s pretty easy to notice a problem. After all, this condition leaves you with itchy, red skin. It can also cause your feet to smell or even give off drainage.
Sometimes, though, the infection looks a lot like dry skin. At other times, you develop symptoms between your toes, where it looks a little different, and is usually the result of both a fungal and bacterial problem. So, how can you be certain you’re dealing with Athlete’s foot? And what should you do if you suspect an infection? Keep reading to find out.
What Causes of Athlete's Foot?
There are several different factors that can leave you with Athlete’s foot. First, the weather—when it turns hot and humid around our podiatry practice in Powder Springs, GA, and you wear a closed shoe, fungus will thrive. Add in exposure to other warm, moist surfaces, like showers, pool decks and locker rooms, and you’ve more environments where fungus flourishes. So, if you go sockless in closed shoes, or barefoot on public surfaces, you’re at a higher risk for a fungal infection. In fact, because the infection is contagious, you can even contract Athlete’s foot by sharing socks, shoes or towels with someone who is already infected. As such, Athlete’s foot in kids is very common, especially when they come back from summer camp. But what are these fungal cells made of? Let’s get under the microscope and find out.
Fungal Break Down
There are two main sources of Athlete's foot: dermatophytes (a type of fungus) and yeast. Dermatophytes are the fungal cells that love to grow in warm, moist environments, like the pool decks and sweaty shoes we mentioned earlier. Plus, they literally survive on keratin, the protein that strengthens nails, skin and hair. For that reason, this fungus loves to attack your body!
While less common, yeast can also give you an Athlete’s foot infection. And, just like fungus, yeast thrives in warm, moist environments. As such, both yeast and fungus can leave you with itchy, red, or stinky feet. And certain factors can increase your risk for falling victim to their attacks. These include:
1. Where You Walk
As we mentioned, public spaces—especially ones with moist surfaces, like locker rooms and pool decks—are full of fungi. So walking barefoot in these spaces increases your risk for infection.
2. How You Live
If you have a weak immune system due to an underlying disease, including diabetes, you’re at higher risk for Athlete’s foot. But even something like wearing tight shoes without socks, or with cotton socks instead of moisture-wicking pairs, increase your risk for hot, sweaty feet—and for fungal infections!
Athlete’s Foot Infections: What are the Symptoms?
Now that you know the why of Athlete’s infection, lets take a closer look at the symptoms of this infection. As we said, fungal infections can make the skin on your feet itch; they can look red, or give off an odor. Also, cracked, itchy or burning feet could also be a sign of this infection.
Sometimes, though, the symptoms are a little more subtle. If your feet feel ‘off’, look for whiteness between the toes—that could be a sign of Athlete’s foot. Dry skin can also be a symptom, but the patches of dry skin will be small and circular rather than widespread. Also, they’re likely to be clustered on the bottom of your foot.
Another symptom to watch for? Look for groups of small red dots on your skin. Most often, they’ll be located on the arch or bottom of the foot.
Are you noticing symptoms of Athlete’s foot, and wanting some relief. Whatever you do—don’t scratch at those itchy patches of skin. Remember, Athlete’s foot is contagious, and scratching at infected skin can spread the infection to other parts of your body. Or even to other people in your house! So try to keep your hands to yourself, and come into the office for quick and lasting relief.
Treating Athlete’s Foot in Powder Springs, GA
If you walk into any drug store or pharmacy, you’re sure to see tons of over-the-counter Athlete's foot treatments. Now, some may help you a little. But most won’t give you lasting relief. Instead, you’ll need prescription medication from our Powder Springs podiatrist in order to get rid of stubborn fungal infections. After all, tinea pedis does not go away with time or with OTC lotions. Anti-fungal topical or oral medications are the only way to treat this infection properly. Let’s look at each option.
Topical Medications for Athlete’s Foot
Some of the topical medications we prescribe for fungal infections are tinectin, lamisil and miconazole. With these treatment options, you apply the topical anti-fungals twice a day, along with some Vaseline, for the prescribed period of time. Typically, your infection will resolve in about two to four weeks with topical treatments.
Oral Treatments for Fungal Infections
Some of the oral Athlete’s foot medications we prescribe are Sporanox and terbinafine. Depending on the location and severity of your infection, these medications will resolve Athlete’s foot in one to two weeks.
Now, while we’re treating the infection on your feet, we need to think about your environment as well. Remember that the fungus on your foot can produce spores, spreading to your shoes if you wear them barefoot, or to your shower. From there, they can infect other parts of your body, or others in your household. So make sure to treat your shoes and floors while you’re treating your Athlete’s foot, in order to prevent re-infection.
Prevention of Future Athlete's Foot Infections
Want to avoid fungal infections altogether? Here are some tips for preventing Athlete's foot.
1. Focus on Hygiene
Make sure to clean your feet daily, drying them fully afterward. And always change out of wet or sweaty socks as soon as possible, to avoid moist, clammy feet.
2. Wear Shoes
Never go barefoot in public. Even at home, try to keep feet covered at all times, especially if someone in the house already has a fungal infection.
3. Wear Better Shoes
Look for pairs that let your feet breathe. And never wear closed shoes without socks.
4. Check out our video for more info
5. Call for help
Suspect you’re developing Athlete’s foot? Don’t waste minute wondering if you’ve got a problem, or trying at home treatment options. Instead, contact Dr. Alvin Cowans right away for fast, effective relief!