Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that affects the skin on your feet.
It can form when the skin is moist, warm, and irritated, so it’s most common in people whose feet become sweaty because of tight-fitting footwear. Athlete’s foot can be uncomfortable, but it’s easily treatable in most people.
Fast treatment is essential to prevent the infection from spreading or causing complications. Therefore, it’s important to be aware of the signs and symptoms of the condition, so you can recognize it right away.
Causes of Athlete’s Foot
Trichophyton is the fungus responsible for athlete’s foot. This fungus exists naturally on the skin, and it doesn’t cause harm when the skin is dry and clean. When the conditions become damp and warm, the fungus can rapidly multiply and cause irritation. Tight, thick shoes are the most common cause of athlete’s foot because they can make the feet warm and sweaty, which is an ideal environment for the Trichophyton fungus. Despite the name of the condition, not only athletes get athlete’s foot. Anyone can develop the infection, especially those who frequently wear tight-fitting shoes or damp socks. The fungal infection is also mildly contagious, so it’s possible to catch the infection from someone else. Walking barefoot in public areas like locker rooms, swimming pools, and communal showers greatly increases your risk of being infected with athlete’s foot. Making contact with towels, shoes, and other items that are contaminated with the fungus can lead to infection as well.
Athlete’s Foot Symptoms
Athlete’s foot usually looks like a red, scaly rash. It typically develops between the toes, but it can spread to the rest of the feet. The affected skin is dry, flaky, and sometimes cracked. Most people experience itching, stinging, and burning feelings around the infected skin. With some forms of athlete’s foot, the infection can cause the skin to swell or ooze, and blisters or ulcers may form. Some varieties of athlete’s foot can cause dryness and scaling on the sole and side of the foot, which may be mistaken for eczema. Severe cases of athlete’s foot can affect the toenails, too. The toenails may become thick and discolored, and they may crumble or pull away from the nail bed.
Athlete’s Foot Complications
Athlete’s foot can be uncomfortable, but the symptoms are usually mild. However, the infection can spread and cause serious complications if it goes untreated. If the infection spreads to the toenails, your nails may crumble or pull away from the nail bed. Sometimes, athlete’s foot can spread to the hand if the infected person doesn’t wash their hands immediately after touching their feet. Athlete’s foot can also increase your risk of a bacterial infection. If the affected skin cracks or blisters, bacteria can enter your foot and cause pain, swelling, and other issues. If the bacteria reaches deep into your skin, it can cause cellulitis, which can result in bone infections or blood poisoning. This is very rare, but it requires immediate treatment with antibiotics. Untreated athlete’s foot can affect your lymph system, too. If the fungal infection spreads to the lymph system, it can cause lymphangitis, an infection of the lymph vessels, or lymphadenitis, an infection of the lymph nodes.
Treatment for Athlete’s Foot
Mild cases of athlete’s foot can usually be treated with over-the-counter medications. There are several medications available that fight off the infection and ease the symptoms of athlete’s foot. Some of the most common over-the-counter anti-fungal medications include clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole, and miconazole. More severe cases of athlete’s foot may require prescription anti-fungal medication, which is stronger than over-the-counter treatments.
There are a variety of home remedies and lifestyle changes that can help treat and prevent athlete’s foot, too. You should wash your feet frequently with soap and warm water. If you have blisters, you can soak your feet in a saltwater solution to help them heal. Most importantly, you should make sure your feet are dry at all times. After washing your feet, dry them thoroughly with a towel, paying close attention to the area between your toes. Wear clean cotton socks, and change them frequently to make sure your feet stay dry. Avoid sharing towels, and wash your towels regularly to remove any fungus or bacteria. Whenever possible, you should wear loose-fitting shoes to prevent your feet from sweating. Leather and canvas are usually the best footwear options for preventing or treating athlete’s foot. Once the infection clears up, you should continue following these steps to avoid another infection.