If you develop a case of athlete’s foot, there’s no need to be embarrassed. You’re far from alone. As much as 25 percent of people get it at one time or another.1
Here’s some information on what athlete’s foot actually is, some of the main causes of the condition, and some of the things you can do to keep it from coming back.
Athlete’s Foot 101
Athlete’s foot is also known as tinea pedis. It’s a very contagious condition. Unfortunately, recurrence is common. The most common form of tinea pedis is known as interdigital athlete’s foot. This will usually lead to the development of a fungus between the fourth and fifth toes. The culprit behind interdigital athlete’s foot is a fungus known as T. rubrum.3
Another form of the condition is known as blistered athlete’s foot. This is usually caused by an allergic reaction to a variety of different fungi, leading to the development of blisters. Moccasin-type athlete’s foot affects the soles of the feet. The most severe type is known as ulcerative tinea pedis. This can cover large areas of the feet and is usually accompanied by a secondary bacterial infection.4
Causes of Athlete’s Foot
Now, the main cause of athlete’s foot is a fungus that results in a skin infection. The fungus will usually get into the skin of the feet through either a small crack or a wound. This leads to an infection of the top layer of the skin.
And athlete’s foot gets passed on through direct contact with infected skin. But you don’t even have to touch the skin in order to be at risk.
You can get the condition merely by contacting flakes of infected skin.
For example, if you’re in a locker room shower and step on infected flakes, there is a good chance you’ll become infected.5
A fungus needs a warm, moist environment in order to thrive. And the feet provide that perfect environment. Since many of us wear shoes and socks every day, that gives fungi a great breeding ground. In addition, fungi love to feed on a protein found in the skin known as keratin.6
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
If you are in fact dealing with athlete’s foot, the symptoms you’ll experience will largely depend on the type that you have. For example, if you have the moccasin-type, you may notice scaling of the skin on the soles of your feet. You may also experience burning, itching or dryness. As the condition worsens, the skin becomes thicker and also peels and cracks. The toenails may even crumble to the point of falling out.7
If you have blistered athlete’s foot, the blisters will typically develop between the toes and arches. Interdigital tinea pedis symptoms include scales between the toes and softened tissue.8 Ulcerative athlete’s foot leads to the development of ulcers between the toes. These ulcers can sometimes lead to a serious bacterial infection.9
The good news is that most types of athlete’s foot are relatively harmless. The bad news is that people with certain diseases are at a higher risk of developing potentially severe infections affecting the legs and feet.10
There are other factors that can increase the risk of developing athlete’s foot.
For example, if you are active and like to run and play sports, your feet are going to sweat a lot.
Again, this is a perfect environment for fungi to thrive. If you’ve had a severe illness or your immune system is weak, you might be at a higher risk as well. Certain types of work shoes can also increase the risk, such as rubber boots are safety shoes. If your feet are predisposed to sweating a great deal, your chances of getting athlete’s foot will go up as well.11
Unfortunately, there is no way to eliminate athlete’s foot. But you’ll find many over-the-counter and home remedies to address the issue. And in most cases, the condition is fairly harmless and can be addressed at home. But if you are at risk of developing a more severe infection due to having a serious disease, get to a doctor if you have any reason to believe you have athlete’s foot.
Your doctor will likely perform a test to make sure that your problem is not something else. He or she may take a sample of your skin and examine it. The doctor will also ask you about any symptoms you may have been experiencing in order to help him or her come up with an accurate diagnosis.
Nobody wants to have to deal with athlete’s foot. The best way to protect your feet is to follow some common-sense precautions. For example, always dry your feet completely after you take a shower. This will be particularly important if you use a communal shower, such as a locker room. Make sure your shoes allow plenty of space for your feet to be able to “breathe.” Try to alternate your shoes as often as possible.12
Wrapping it Up
Athlete’s foot can be an extremely frustrating condition. The itching associated with it can be maddening. You should never ignore it because it won’t get any better on its own. You’ll either need to purchase an over-the-counter product or get to your doctor to address the problem.
If you suffer from a severe disease and suspect you have athlete’s foot, get medical help as soon as you can to keep the situation from becoming an even more serious infection.
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