Are your feet itchy, scaling or blistering?
Are you noticing a slight foot odor or discoloration of your toenails?
If these annoying and oftentimes painful signs and symptoms are present, you may be experiencing Athlete’s Foot.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s Foot can affect anyone, and is actually a very common fungal skin infection. Studies have shown that around 15% to 25% of people are likely to have Athlete’s Foot at any one time.
You can develop the condition by coming into contact with a fungus that typically grows in warm and moist places like floors in public showers or in gym locker rooms.
You can even be exposed to it in a swimming pool. This fungus is contagious and spreads very easily.
Some people may only experience Athlete’s Foot once in their lives, while for others it becomes a chronic condition.
Experts aren’t exactly certain why some people seem more susceptible to the infection more than others…
…but it does appear that susceptibility seems to increase with a patient’s age.
How do you know if you have Athlete’s Foot?
There are a multitude of symptoms associated with Athlete’s Foot.
Some symptoms affect the toenails, while others affect the skin. When the infection first starts out, you will usually notice white or red soft scaling between your toes.
Known as a toe web infection, it is common to see between the fourth and fifth toes on the foot.
Toe web infections usually come on quickly and produce more severe symptoms.
However, they are treated fairly easily.
Itchy skin, tiny blisters and a slightly bad odor may also occur with these types of infections.
If the infection starts in the toenails, you may see a discoloration of the nail — in particular a yellow, white or brown color. You may also notice a thickening under the edge of the nail.
Thickened skin on the sole or heel of the foot may also happen during the course of Athlete’s Foot.
This is known as a moccasin-type infection, and it is usually harder to treat because of the thickness of the skin on the sole of the foot.
Moccasin-type infections also last for longer periods of time than toe web infections, and can become chronic conditions for many patients.
If you experience larger blisters on your foot, you may have what is called a vesicular infection.
Vesicular infections, like toe web infections, come on suddenly and have severe symptoms.
Yet, in most cases, they are also considered fairly easy to treat.
The instep is the most common area for a vesicular infection to begin, although blistering can occur on any part of the foot.
In some cases of Athlete’s Foot (especially in those patients with a vesicular infection), the fungal infection can become severe enough that a bacterial infection can occur.
This bacteria may cause a breakdown of the skin and/or an infection in the toenails.
It’s even possible for the lower leg to become infected. For these reasons, it’s key to treat Athlete’s Foot as soon as symptoms begin occurring.
It’s also important to note that if you don’t treat the symptoms properly, they will usually return.
So how do you go about treating Athlete’s Foot?
Treatments for Athlete’s Foot completely depend on the severity of your condition.
In general, most patients can treat themselves right at home with over-the-counter topical antifungal medications such as:
- Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
- Miconazole (Micatin)
- Terbinafine (Lamisil)
- and Tolnaftate (Tinactin)
These medications are available in your local drugstores.
However, when over-the-counter treatments are unsuccessful, it then becomes necessary to visit a podiatrist (foot and ankle doctor).
A podiatrist can correctly diagnose your condition by looking at your skin scrapings or toenail clippings under a microscope.
A podiatrist can also give you a prescription topical antifungal, such as:
- Butenafine (Mentax)
- and Naftifine (Naftin)
These are the three generally used topical prescriptions.
If the infection doesn’t clear up after using one of these, and your condition becomes more severe, oral antifungals such as:
- Fluconazole (Diflucan)
- Itraconazole (Sporanox)
- and Terbinafine (Lamisil)
…may be prescribed.
Note that if you end up taking an oral antifungal, your podiatrist may have to test you periodically for side effects that may affect your liver, kidneys or heart (depending on your risk factors).
It’s of utmost importance that you always take all of the medications prescribed to you, even if your condition improves quickly after beginning treatment. If you don’t finish your medication, Athlete’s Foot can easily return.
In severe cases of blistering, it may be necessary for your podiatrist to dry the blisters out by removing the tops of them and soaking your feet.
Once home, you should soak your feet in an over-the-counter solution known as Burrow’s solution several times a day for a few days.
This will help to dry out the blisters and halt the growth or fungus and bacteria.
In addition to topical or oral antifungal medications from your podiatrist, there are several best practices you should consider to help your current infection as well as prevent future infections. You should:
- Make sure to always keep your feet as dry and clean as possible.
- Wear clean, dry socks — even if you have to change your socks throughout the day to keep them fresh.
- Go barefoot when you can (around your home).
- Use an antiperspirant foot spray on your feet to keep moisture to a minimum.
- Sterilize your shoes with a shoe sterilizer. This will help to stop the infection from recurring. If necessary, throw away your old shoes.
- Keep your toenails clean at all times, and also keep them clipped short.
Your Next Step
Want to get rid of your athlete’s foot and end the burning, pain, and itching?
No matter what type of Athlete’s Foot you have or what type of severity you are experiencing, it’s always a good idea to see a podiatrist for the best possible treatment plan.
Our podiatrists have extensive experience diagnosing and treating all types of athlete’s foot. We can help you get back to being free from the burning and itching, and get your feet back to looking and feeling great again.
If you live in or around the MD, DC, VA metro area, give us a call to schedule an appointment or have your questions answered at 301-937-5666. Or simply fill out the form on the top right of this page.