Athlete’s Foot: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis
Athlete’s foot – also called tinea pedis – is an infectious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet. It can spread to toenails and hands too. Fungal infections are called the foot of the athlete because it is usually seen in athletes.
The foot of the athlete is not serious, but sometimes it is difficult to fix it. If you have diabetes or weak immune system and you suspect that you have an athlete’s foot, you should call your doctor immediately.
What Causes the Athlete’s Foot?
The athlete’s foot occurs when the tinea fungus grows on the foot. You can catch the fungus directly with the infected person, or by touching the contaminated surfaces with the fungus. The fungus rises in hot, humid surroundings. It is usually found around the shower, locker room floor and swimming pool.
Who is at Risk for the Athlete’s Foot?
Anyone can get the foot of the athlete, but some behaviors increase your risk. Factors that increase your risk of receiving athlete’s foot include:
• Bare feet, especially in public places of locker room, shower and swimming pool
• Sharing socks, shoes, or towels with an infected person
• Wearing tight, closed toe boots
• Keep your feet wet for a long time
• Sweat leg
• Minor skin or nail injury on your feet
What are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?
There are several potential symptoms of athlete’s foot, including the following:
• Burning itching, stalk, and between your toes or on the soles of your feet
• Itchy blisters on your feet
• Cracking and peeling of skin on your feet, usually between your toes and your soles
• Dry skin on the edges of your soles or your feet
• Raw skin on your feet
• Decomposed, thick, and laminated toenails
• Toenails to pull nails away from the bed
How is the Athlete’s Foot Diagnosed?
A doctor can diagnose symptoms of an athlete’s foot. Or, a doctor can order a skin test if they are not sure that a fungal infection is causing your symptoms.
A skin lesion potassium hydroxide test is the most common test for the feet of the athlete. A doctor emerges from a small area of infected skin and places it in potassium hydroxide. KOH destroys normal cells and touches fungal cells so that they can see under the microscope.
How is the Athlete’s Foot Treated?
The athlete’s foot can often be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungal drugs. If OTC medicines do not cure your infection, then your doctor may prescribe topical or oral prescription antifungal medications. Your doctor may also recommend home remedies to help in relieving the infection.
Many OTCs are occasional antifungal drugs, which include:
- miconazole (Desenex)
- terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
- clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
- butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
- tolnaftate (Tinactin)
Some of the medicines prescribed by your doctor for athlete’s foot include:
• Occasional, prescription-power clotrimazole or miconazole
• oral antifungal medications such as itraconazole (Sporanox), fluconazole (Diflucan), or prescription-strength terbinafine (Lamisil)
• topical steroid medications to reduce painful inflammation
• oral antibiotics if bacterial infections develop due to raw skin and blisters
Your doctor may recommend that you soak your feet in salt water or a thin vinegar to help dry the blisters.
Tea tree oil has been used as an alternative treatment to treat athlete’s foot with some trees. A study in 2002 has shown that 50 percent solution of tea tree oil effectively treat the athlete’s foot in 64 percent of the test participants.
Ask your doctor if tea tree oil solutions can help your athlete’s feet. Tea tree oil can cause contact skin disease in some people.
Athlete’s legs can cause complications in some cases. Light complications include an allergic reaction to fungus, which can blisters on the leg or hands. Fungal infection is also possible after treatment.
There may be serious complications when secondary bacterial infection develops. In this case, your feet may become swollen, painful and warm. Pus, drainage, and fever are additional signs of bacterial infection.
It is also possible to spread bacterial infections for bacterial infections. A skin infection can lead to infection in your lymphatic system or lymph nodes.
Long term Outlook
The athlete’s foot infection may be light or serious. Some are cleared quickly, and others last long. Athlete’s foot infections usually respond well to antifungal treatment. However, it is sometimes difficult to eliminate fungal infections. Long-term treatment with antifungal drugs may be necessary to stop athlete’s foot infection from returning.
There are several things you can do to help the athlete’s foot infections:
• Wash your feet with soap and water every day and dry them well, especially between toes.
• Wash socks, bedding and towels in water that is 140 degrees Fahrenheit (60 degrees C) or above. The combination of washing socks and application of OTC antifangal recommendations should treat most cases of athlete’s foot. You can disinfect your shoes by using disinfectant wipes (chloric wipes) or spray.
• Put antifungal powder on your feet every day.
• Do not share socks, shoes, or towels with others.
• In public showers, wear sandals around public swimming pools and in other public places.
• Wear socks made of breathable fibers such as cotton or wool, or made from synthetic fibers that remove moisture from your skin.
• Change your socks on your feet after sweating.
• Take out your feet when you are on your bare foot and at home.
• Wear shoes made from breathing material.
• Optional between two pairs of shoes, to wear each pair every other day, to give time to dry their shoes during use. Humidity will allow fungus to grow.