Athletics and physical activities may increase your risk for different foot issues, but athlete’s foot isn’t necessarily one of them. In spite of the name, athlete’s foot is not directly related to athletic activities. Instead, this skin condition is caused by fungus and the infection can be sustained by anyone who has feet.
Athlete’s Foot Causes and Symptoms
Having already noted that the condition is a fungal infection, let’s now take a look at the types of fungus responsible for it. There are actually two different fungi which can cause the infection to develop – Trichophyton mentagrophytes and Trichophyton rubrum. The first type can lead to blister-like infections and is easily treated, and the second results in moccasin-type infections and can be difficult to treat.
Both fungi are transferred fairly easily to human feet either via contact with a contaminated surface or infected individual. These microorganisms are most commonly found living in warm, damp environments, but they can also reside on materials—socks, shoes, towels—that had made direct contact with contaminated surfaces. Gym locker room and showering area floors, and indoor pool decks, provide environments conducive to fungal growth.
The primary symptom of athlete’s foot is an itching, burning sensation. This will typically start out between the toes, but then begin to spread across the foot. Many cases also have a red, scaly rash. Other symptoms can include chronic dryness, blisters, and even ulcers (which often only happen in cases of severe infection).
Since their respective symptoms can be rather similar, this fungal infection is sometimes mistaken for eczema or dry skin. If you are uncertain as to what is causing the redness and itching, simply schedule an appointment with one of our Idaho offices and we will provide a professional diagnosis.
Anyone who has feet may contract this common fungal infection, but it does tend to be more frequently seen in male patients. In addition to gender, there are other risk factors, including:
- A weakened immune system—either from age or medical condition—with an impaired ability to fight the infection.
- Exposure to items—bed linens, mats, shoes, socks, and towels—that have been contaminated by an infected individual.
- Frequently wearing damp socks and tight-fitting footwear, especially shoes that do not allow feet to breathe.
- Walking barefoot in gym locker rooms, showering areas, and on indoor pool decks.
Treating and Preventing Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot symptoms can be a source of irritation and discomfort, but the good news is that these fungal infections are often treated easily. Over-the-counter antifungal products like ointments, powders, and sprays can be quite effective for mild or moderate cases. If you use any of these products, follow the instructions carefully because symptoms will start to clear up before the infection has been completely treated.
If your case of athlete’s foot is severe, or not responding to over-the-counter treatment, then you will likely need professional treatment. Dr. Wettstein may need to prescribe either topical or oral medications that are stronger to effectively address the condition.
Some of the top practices for athlete’s foot prevention include:
- Choose the right footwear. Wearing moisture-wicking socks and breathable shoes help promote dryness in the feet, which then deprives the fungus of the moisture it needs to survive.
- Keep your feet dry. Making sure your feet are completely dry—including the areas between your toes—before you put on socks after showering or bathing is a good practice for preventing a fungal infection. If your socks become wet, change into a dry pair as soon as possible.
- Protect your feet. While walking in gym locker rooms or on pool decks, always wear clean shower shoes or sandals to keep your feet safe.
- Use antifungal products. These can work well for treatment, but antifungal sprays and powders used daily in footwear and on your feet will reduce your risk of infection.
We provide a wide array of podiatric services, including treatment for severe cases of athlete’s foot, so make sure you contact Advanced Foot and Ankle whenever issues arise in your lower limbs. You can reach our Twin Falls, ID office by calling (208) 731-6321 and our Burley office by calling (208) 312-4646 and we will be glad to provide additional information. You can also use our online form to request an appointment with Advanced Foot and Ankle right now.