Athlete’s foot is a common condition caused by a fungus called tinea pedis. This fungus is closely related to the fungi that cause jock itch and ringworm. Some people are naturally more prone to athlete’s foot infection, while others are more resistant.
Tinea pedis causes an itchy, scaly red rash to appear on the foot or feet, often beginning between the toes. The rash may crack and bleed. The infection is generally easily treated by over-the-counter antifungal preparations. However, it may recur. Resistant cases may require professional treatment from a doctor or podiatrist, who can prescribe stronger prescription medication.
If you are diabetic, do not attempt to treat athlete’s foot on your own. Visit your physician or podiatrist immediately. A diabetic has a much higher chance of infection and other serious complications from athlete’s foot than a non-diabetic does.
Infection Can Spread
If you have athlete’s foot, be aware that the infection can spread to your hands and nails by contact. It can spread to your groin area, too, which is a condition known as jock itch. Thoroughly wash your hands after touching an infected area. Better yet, wear gloves and dispose of them carefully afterwards. If the fungal infection does spread to your toe or fingernails, it will be much more difficult to treat than the skin infection is.
Even after the infection has cleared, it can easily come back if you are re-exposed. The main causes of athlete’s foot are:
- Wearing tight-fitting shoes for long periods of time
- Exposure to contaminated surfaces such as locker room benches and floors
- Walking barefoot in public shower facilities
- Sharing towels, shoes or clothing items with an infected person
Men are typically more vulnerable to athlete’s foot than women are. It’s best for both sexes to wear waterproof foot protection in any public location where it’s wet or damp, such as pools, spas, saunas and showers. Avoid direct skin contact on surfaces where the athlete’s foot fungus may be lurking.
The best prevention is to avoid the infection in the first place. However, this isn’t always possible. If you have this condition, here are some suggestions:
- Change socks frequently; two or more times a day if necessary
- Never walk barefoot around public pools or similar areas
- Keep your feet dry. Dry thoroughly between your toes after a shower
- Go barefoot at home as much as possible. Remember, the fungus thrives in dark, warm, damp, enclosed environments
- Powder your feet with an antifungal powder
- Choose light shoes made of natural materials. Try to not wear the same pair two days in a row
- Never share shoes. Infection can spread this way