Tinea pedis, which is commonly called athlete’s foot, does not just target athletes. In fact, 70-80% of people in the entire world will have experienced this fungus once in their lifetime. In the United States alone, 26.5 million people contract athlete’s foot each year, with 7 out of 10 being men. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that grows on feet that provide a dark, warm, moist environment, which is the same environment that the sweaty socks and shoes of an athlete creates when exercising. Athlete’s foot usually has the following signs and symptoms:
- Cracked or flake-like skin in between the toes or on the sides of the foot
- Easily Peel-able skin
- Irritated skin that may be itchy and/or red
- Stinging or burn-like sensation of foot and toe
- Rash-like appearance
So if you are not an athlete, but are still experiencing athlete’s foot, the fungus is growing due to the following situations:
- Wearing closed toed shoes
- Shoes made of plastic
- Wet or sweaty feet
All of these situations prevent the feet from “breathing” resulting in the feet being kept in a dark, warm, and moist environment. The following are some tips to prevent Athlete’s foot:
- Wear flip-flops in public showers and around swimming pools
- Put new socks on at least once a day or more often if socks become damp
- Dry feet and between the toes thoroughly after bathing and swimming
- Wear shoes that allow the feet to “breath,” so that the feet have a dry, cool, light environment (fungus do not like this environment)
- Alternate shoes daily to allow the inside of the shoes to dry thoroughly to prevent moisture.
- Socks that “wick” moisture away from the feet are also a critical component in treating athlete’s foot.
If these symptoms do not bother you enough to seek treatment know that athlete’s foot is very contagious. This fungus can spread to other people by:
- Sharing shoes
- Public showers
- Swimming pool
- Direct contact by touching the skin
Not only can the fungus spread to other people, but it can also spread to other parts of your body via direct contact. For instance, if you touch your foot the fungus may now be on your hands and nails. So even if your symptoms are not severe enough to impact your daily life, it is important to stop this fungal growth immediately.
Conveniently athlete’s foot can usually be knocked out with an over-the-counter antifungal powder or cream medication. Unfortunately, sometimes a prescription antifungal medication is needed. Antifungal medication will usually kill the fungus within 1-2 weeks, but it is very important even if you can no longer see the fungus to still keep applying the medication to prevent re-growth of the fungus. While using the antifungal medications, keep the feet dry and always make an effort to dry in between the toes after bathing. Also, wash your feet with soap and water 2 times a day and dry well each time, wear clean socks and change socks during the day as socks become damp with sweat.
If these efforts do not work or the fungus returns, it is time to see the podiatrist to get a prescription for a more powerful antifungal medication.