Athlete’s foot is one of the most common fungal infections that anyone can get. Fungi like living in warm, moist or wet places, which is why we are so prone to getting them. We are at risk for getting athlete’s foot when we step into the shower, walk on the pool deck, or walk barefooted in a locker room. The fungi can spread very easily from one person to another. Just touching a surface that is infested with the athlete’s foot fungi will put you at risk for contracting the infection.
Symptoms of athlete’s foot
The symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
Itching and burning between the toes
Scaly skin on the feet and toes
Peeling skin between and under the toes
Skin cracking between the toes and on the soles of the feet
Parts of the foot infected by athlete’s foot
The whole foot may be infected with an athlete’s foot infection. The skin on the heels and the sole of the foot may get sore. The skin there may become thick and start to crack. Athlete’s foot may also present with large blisters that form under the skin on the bottoms of the feet.
The cracking and blistering of the skin can open a passageway for bacteria to enter into the already infected foot. It’s very possible that a staph infection could develop after the fungal infection has weakened the skin integrity of the foot.
Diagnosing athlete’s foot
Your doctor will most likely recognize the symptoms of an athlete’s foot infection right away. If there is any question about whether your infection is from the athlete’s foot fungus, he/she will take a scraping of your skin or a tiny piece of nail to examine under a microscope. If the infection is indeed athlete’s foot, then the fungi will be visible under magnification.
If you think you have athlete’s foot, you still should see your doctor. For instance, if you suddenly have athlete’s foot symptoms, and you never had any problems with your feet, the infection might not be athlete’s foot at all. It could be a bacterial infection.
How to treat athlete’s foot
Prevention is part of the treatment. The first order of treating athlete’s foot is to keep your feet dry. Fungi don’t like dry feet; they need a moist environment in which to flourish. It is important that neither you, nor anyone else in your family walk around the house barefooted. You will only re-infect yourself by being exposed to the fungi on the floor.
Keeping your feet clean is very important. Wash your feet before you go to bed to remove the fungi from the feet. If the fungi transfer from your feet to your sheets and bed covers, you could continue to keep the infection, and you also might pass the infection on to anyone who shares your bed with you. It’s also a good idea to change your socks a couple of times a day. The feet tend to sweat when wearing shoes, so removing the socks and applying clean ones will help to keep the feet dry. By changing socks, the fungi that are trapped in the socks will be removed, thereby hastening the healing process.
Your doctor may suggest that you soak your feet in a solution of boric acid and water for 15 to 30 minutes. Soaking the feet will help to loosen the dead skin and fungi from the skin on your feet. After soaking, it is important to use a soft towel or dry wash cloth to gently exfoliate the skin on your feet. You should see pieces of skin and debris roll up on the surface of your feet. It’s important to remove as much of that debris as possible.
Your doctor may suggest that you use an antifungal cream on your feet and between your toes to kill the fungi. You can buy over-the-counter athlete’s foot cream, or you may use an antifungal cream that is prescribed by your doctor. In the morning, after you wake up, be sure to wash your feet to remove the cream that was applied the night before. You will need to apply new cream and don a pair of socks to help keep your feet dry. If you work, take an extra pair of socks to work with you to change during your shift.
In severe cases of athlete’s foot, your doctor may treat your infection more aggressively. An antifungal medication may be prescribed to be taken by mouth. An antibiotic may also be prescribed to treat the infection and prevent a bacterial infection to manifest.