Itchy, irritated skin in between the toes or on the feet could be an indication of athlete's foot. With proper treatment, this frustrating condition can resolve relatively quickly. The experienced team of physicians at Rendon Center for Dermatology & Aesthetic Medicine provides clinical care in a comfortable environment where patients can find the right solution for their needs.
What is Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is the most common type of fungal infection. It is a form of ringworm that causes a stinging, itchy, burning rash. We often see athlete's foot in between the toes of one or both feet. The skin may flake, peel, or crack as a result of the infection. Discoloration of the skin, thickening, or swelling can also occur. While the toes are a common area for this fungal infection to develop, some cases involve a rash on the bottom and edges of the feet.
What Causes Athlete's Foot to Develop?
Athlete's foot may be caused by several different types of fungi. This condition is contagious so may be picked up by sharing a towel or wearing the socks or shoes of someone who has the infection. Fungi also live in areas that may be used by multiple people, such as public swimming pools or locker rooms. For athlete's foot to develop, the fungi that adhere to the feet rely on moisture and warmth. This is why people who wear heavy nonbreathable shoes like work boots may be more likely to get athlete's foot at some point.
How Can Athlete's Foot be Treated?
When athlete's foot is caught very early, you can try to resolve the infections using an over-the-counter anti-fungal cream. At the same time, it is important to keep your feet dry, clean, and cool. Go barefoot as much as possible and avoid scratching the areas of inflammation and itching. When you scratch athlete's foot, there is a very good chance you are spreading the fungus to other parts of the body. If the affected area looks swollen or discolored, schedule an appointment with a doctor.
What Will a Doctor Do for Athlete's Foot?
If the symptoms of athlete's foot do not improve with over-the-counter medication or the condition worsens quickly, it is best to see a doctor. A board-certified dermatologist is trained to accurately diagnose hundreds of skin conditions and may identify athlete's foot through a physical examination and consultation alone. The standard clinical treatments for athlete's foot include the use of prescription antifungal medications. The doctor may prescribe a topical spray, gel, powder, or other product. They may also prescribe oral antifungal medication to eradicate more advanced athlete's foot. Whatever treatment is prescribed, it is necessary to complete the course of medication as directed. Otherwise, the infection may return.
Will Athlete's Foot Go Away on Its Own?
Most cases of athlete's foot do not resolve on their own. If not properly treated, the fungal infection could spread to other areas of the body.
What Happens if Athlete's Foot is Left Untreated?
It is important to address athlete's foot effectively for the infection to go away completely. Without adequate care, the infection can spread to the nails, causing symptoms on the nail or nail bed. Athlete's foot can also spread to the hands or the groin when the same towel is used to dry the feet and the rest of the body after bathing.
How Can Athlete's Foot be Prevented?
To reduce the likelihood of developing athlete's foot, the American Academy of Dermatology suggests the following:
- Keep the feet dry and cool as much as possible
- Wear sandals when the weather permits
- Wear sandals when using public pools or showers
- Wear moisture-wicking socks with close-toed shoes, and change socks daily
- Alternate shoes daily to allow time for the fabric to dry completely in between wear