You’ve probably heard of athlete’s foot before. You might have heard of it, but maybe you don’t know a lot about it. Is it as contagious as it has been made out to be? Is it okay to share your shoes with someone who has athlete’s foot? Maybe you have something odd going on with your feet, and you’re wondering if your symptoms are due to athlete’s foot.
All the questions you could have about athlete’s foot will be answered in this comprehensive guide.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a type of infection which occurs on feet. It’s a fungal infection of the skin on the feet. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is called Trichophyton. This type of infection is also called a tinea infection.
Athlete’s foot doesn’t just affect athletes. It’s the most common type of fungal infection, and it can infect all different kinds of people. Anyone can get athlete’s foot. The elderly, children, men, and women are all capable of contracting the infection.
It’s called athlete’s foot because the fungi that infect the skin are small organisms that love moist, warm environments, and athletes have feet that are often sweaty, so their feet are the perfect hosts for the fungus.
Athlete’s foot usually isn’t dangerous, but sometimes it can cause serious complications.fv
What Are the Common Causes of Athlete’s Foot?
Trichophyton ordinarily exists on the skin without causing any problems. When the fungi get to experience a warm and moist environment for an extended period of time, their population can grow fast. When their population grows out of control, the fungi will start causing symptoms.
Athlete’s foot is contagious. It can spread person-to-person or from the environment to a person.
Here are some of the common causes of athlete’s foot:
- Wearing shoes that are likely to create a favorable environment for the fungi can cause athlete’s foot. Tight shoes that overheat easily and hold moisture inside are shoes that can contribute to causing fungal infections.
- Wearing shoes all the time can cause athlete’s foot. The longer you leave your feet sweating in shoes, the more likely you are to get athlete’s foot.
- Sharing shoes with someone who has the fungal infection can cause you to catch athlete’s foot. Their infection can spread to you indirectly through shoes.
- Wearing moist socks for long periods of time can cause athlete’s foot.
- Walking barefoot through environments that are fungi-friendly in public places can cause athlete’s foot. An infected person may leave some of the fungi to grow in these places.
- Sharing a bed, exercise mat, a towel, or clothing with someone who has athlete’s foot will put you at risk of developing an infection.
- Coming into contact with an infected pet can cause athlete’s foot. Even your pets can be infected by the athlete’s foot fungus. Animals who have athlete’s foot will often show signs of hair loss. You can have their infection treated at the veterinary office.
How Can I Avoid Getting Athlete’s Foot?
There are some measures you can take to avoid getting athlete’s foot in the future. Most of the actions you can take to prevent infection are simple.
Here are some of the ways you can avoid getting athlete’s foot:
- Keep your feet dry as often as you can. This will prevent the fungi from growing. After swimming or bathing, dry your feet. Go barefoot as often as possible to keep your feet dry.
- Don’t share shoes with anyone. If anyone has a fungal infection, you can pick it up by using their shoes.
- Wear shoes that have more ventilation. Canvas and leather shoes offer more ventilation than plastic shoes.
- Change your socks every day. A dry, fresh pair of socks can help prevent fungal growth. If your socks start getting damp before you would ordinarily change them, change your socks more often.
- Allow your shoes to dry after you take them off. Only wear them again when they’re fully dry. You can wear different shoes every other day to give your shoes more than a night to dry. Or you could use a boot drier to dry out your shoes overnight.
- Don’t go barefoot in public places. Keep some sort of barrier on your feet when you’re in public. It’s especially important to wear shoes in the damper public places. Communal showers and pools are an attractive place for fungi to live. If you go barefoot in these places, you’re at risk of picking up athlete’s foot.
- If your feet are very sweaty, you may want to treat your feet with a powder. Some people might have a hard time keeping their feet dry. Powder can help to keep the feet dry by absorbing excess moisture. An anti-fungal powder is even better at preventing athlete’s foot.
- Wash the textiles you come into contact with regularly. Washing your bedding, towels, and clothing frequently will reduce your risk of infection.
- Wash your feet well when you take a bath. Use soap and make sure to scrub between your toes.
There are also some circumstances that could put you at a higher risk of developing the infection. Men are more likely to have athlete’s foot. People with weakened immune systems are also more likely to become infected.
Can I Get Athlete’s Foot on My Hands?
Your hands are not safe from the athlete’s foot fungus. It’s not common, but the fungus spread to your hands. If you touch your infected foot and don’t wash your hands after, you’re much more likely to develop a fungal infection on your hands.
When the fungus infects the hands, it’s called tinea manuum. All of the same symptoms that occur on the feet can also occur on the hands.
Not only can the fungus spread to your hands, but it can also spread to other parts of your body. Untreated athlete’s foot will spread toe-to-toe. It can spread across the foot.
The infection can be spread to any parts of the body that come into direct or indirect contact with infected skin. The fungus has an easier time infecting places like the groin. When the groin is infected, it’s called jock itch.
The nail beds can be infected. The fungus becomes much more difficult to treat when it’s in the nail beds. This can happen to both nails of the hands and the feet, but it’s much more common for it to happen to the foot’s nail beds. An infected nail can become thick and brittle. The nail’s color will become opaque and will be either white or yellow. Parts of the nail might fall off. Infected nails can become painful if left untreated.
To prevent spreading the infection, you can avoid touching the affected skin. If you have to touch the infection, wash your hand thoroughly afterward.
What are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?
Watch out for these symptoms of athlete’s foot:
- Itchiness: The infected skin will become itchy.
- Burning and stinging skin: In addition to feeling itchy, infected skin can also produce a burning and stinging sensation.
- Red skin
- Dry and flaky skin
- Scaly skin
- Cracking skin
- Oozing, crusty skin
- Blistered skin: Blistered skin is often a symptom of an allergy to the fungus.
Athlete’s foot can present in different ways. Typically, the infection shows up as an itchy, scaly red rash. Sometimes the foot will be overly dry and scaly. The infection can occur on a small patch of skin or cover the entire foot.
Sometimes the infection presents as cracking, oozing, and blistering skin. When an athlete’s foot infection shows these symptoms, it’s more likely that a bacterial infection will eventually set in. Bacterial infections might spread further in the body and become dangerous. Athlete’s foot can lead to a bacterial infection in the lymph nodes and other places.
On rare occasions, athlete’s foot will cause cellulitis, which is a bacterial infection located deep within the skin. Cellulitis can become very dangerous if left untreated. It should be treated right away with antibiotics. Untreated Cellulitis can cause you to become septic or develop a bone infection.
The infection most commonly begins between the toes. It usually starts between the toes because that is the dampest area of the foot. If the area between your toes begins to itch and show signs of a red rash, it might be time to look into treatment.
How Do I Treat Athlete’s Foot?
Most of the time, you will be able to treat athlete’s foot at home. With mild cases, there is no need to see a doctor.
There are many different anti-fungal medications that can be used to kill the fungus. If you want medications to work well, you have to be sure to follow the instructions. It’s usually required that you continue to apply the medication even after the symptoms have faded. If you stop using the medication too early, then it’s likely that the infection will come back.
Here are some of the over-the-counter medications you can buy:
- Anti-fungal Creams: Antifungal creams are one of the most popular ways to deal with an athlete’s foot infection at home. The creams usually work well if applied properly. The various creams use several different active ingredients to kill fungi.
- – Terbinafine is the most effective over-the-counter active ingredient used to treat the athlete’s foot fungus. It inhibits the enzyme the fungus uses to grow.
- – Clotrimazole is another effective ingredient. It also works by inhibiting enzymes.
- – Miconazole works by inhibiting an enzyme and preventing growth.
- – Tolnaftate works by inhibiting an enzyme and preventing regrowth.
- – Undeyclyenic Acid is an active ingredient that kills the infection and makes the skin an inhospitable environment to fungi.
- Anti-fungal Powders: These powders have the ability to kill fungi, plus the added ability to keep the foot dry, which also helps to fight athlete’s foot.
- Anti-fungal Sprays: These sprays have all the same ingredients as the creams, but come in a convenient spray form. The sprays are easier to apply. They can ensure that the infected areas get an even coverage of medication. Sprays are also great for when it’s painful to rub cream into your skin. There’s no rubbing involved with a spray.
What Products Treat Athlete’s Foot Effectively?
Not all over-the-counter products are created equally. Some will work better than others. Here are two popular over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream medications that will effectively treat your infection.
Natureplex’s Athlete’s Foot Cream
This anti-fungal cream fights athlete’s foot using the active ingredient clotrimazole. It contains as much clotrimazole as it can without a prescription. It’s sufficient to treat most cases of athlete’s foot and can treat other types of fungal infections.
Natureplex’s cream is formulated to kill the infection while also relieving itching, cracking, scaling, burning, and discomfort. It’s made with Aloe Vera, so it soothes and moisturizes the skin. It’s created to feel comfortable against the skin without leaving a greasy residue. The cream is also odorless and non-staining.
Lotrimin Ultra Athlete’s Foot Cream
Lotrimin is one of the most well-known brands when it comes to anti-fungal medications. Its products are considered to be of the highest quality.
The active ingredient in the Ultra Athlete’s Foot Cream is butenafine hydrochloride. The cream is comparable to prescription creams in strength. The Ultra Athlete’s Foot Cream relieves the itching and burning of the skin while it treats your infection. It can also be used to treat other fungal skin infections. This cream works faster than most others. It is capable of curing athlete’s foot in one week.
When Should I Give the Doctor a Call?
Sometimes over-the-counter medication is not enough. In rare cases, you will need to see a doctor in order to be treated.
You will need to see a doctor if you have:
## An Infected Nail Bed: If the infection is under the nail bed, over-the-counter medications will not work. Topical treatments cannot reach the fungus under the nails.
## Symptoms That Are Not Going Away: When over-the-counter medications do not work, you’ll need to see a doctor. If the infection doesn’t start clearing up after a month, you should give your doctor a call.
## Diabetes: You need to see a doctor if you have diabetes. Diabetes makes it harder for your body to fight off the infection. It will make you more inclined to developing serious complications.
## An Infection That Is Spreading: If you’ve been taking over-the-counter medication and the infection is still spreading to new areas, then it’s time to get help.
## Severe Pain: If your life is being disrupted by pain, it’s time to see a doctor. Your life is being disrupted by pain when you have trouble walking, putting weight on your foot, or are constantly distracted by the pain. This could be a sign of a bacterial infection that needs attention right away.
## A Hot and Swollen Foot: This is a sign of a bacterial infection, and you’ll need to take antibiotics for it.
What Treatments Will My Doctor Prescribe?
A doctor can prescribe stronger medications to deal with the infection. Doctors will often order a stronger version of the same medications that you can get over the counter.
If you have an infected nail bed or your infection is not clearing up after taking topical medication, your doctor will prescribe you an oral medication.
Here are some of the topical medications that your doctor can prescribe:
Here are some of the oral medications that your doctor can prescribe:
The oral medications each come with their own side effects, so they are generally used as a last resort. Oral anti-fungal medications can be damaging to the fetus when taken by pregnant women. You will need to inform your doctor if you’re pregnant or nursing.
Oral terbinafine can be harmful to those with liver disease. It can cause gastrointestinal distress, headaches, nausea, cough, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Oral itraconazole causes gastrointestinal distress, headaches, nausea, coughing, vomiting, constipation, and joint pain. It’s also harmful to people with heart, kidney, and liver disease. It should not be taken by people with cystic fibrosis, breathing problems, or long QT syndrome.
Oral fluconazole can cause nausea, vomiting, stomach pain, and headaches. It might be harmful to people with liver disease, kidney disease, arrhythmia, and long QT syndrome.
Athlete’s foot can be somewhat of a pain to deal with but it is quite common and with the right information and the right remedies it can be handled pretty easily.