With summer fast approaching, sandal season is just around the corner. That means your feet will be getting a lot of attention! The only thing getting in the way of foot fame? An itchy, annoying rash.
Foot rashes can have a number of causes, some suggesting something wrong solely around the foot area, while others implying a more body-wide condition.
Not all foot rashes are cause for concern, but a persistent rash can certainly warrant medical attention.
Here’s what the rash on your foot may be telling you.
If It’s Characterized By Red Rings …
It could be athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, a contagious fungal infection often passed in areas like locker rooms or gyms. This infection is characterized by light red rings usually found around the toes or on the soles of the feet. Symptoms include itchiness, redness, scaliness, burning sensations, blisters, cracking and peeling skin, discolored and crumbly toenails, and nails that pull away from the nail bed.1
Topical antifungal creams may help ease Athlete’s foot. Many of these creams are available over the counter. However, if you have a weakened immune system, or diabetes, and you fear that you may have athlete’s foot, contact your doctor immediately. You are at risk for developing cellulitis, which is a non-contagious bacterial infection that must be addressed by a medical professional.2
If It’s Red and Itchy With Distinct Edges …
It could be contact dermatitis, also called contact eczema, which occurs when skin comes in contact with an allergen or irritant. Dyes, fragrances, chemicals, certain types of plants, like poison ivy, and chromates, a component found in shoe leather, are all examples of allergens or irritants that may cause a foot rash.
Contact dermatitis often has distinct edges that are either straight or at right angles, making it easier to identify them. Other symptoms may include itchiness, scaliness, burning sensations, and blisters.3
This type of rash will usually heal on its own if you can determine what caused it in the first place. Avoiding the allergen or irritant responsible for the rash will allow it to improve within two to four weeks.4 You can also use over-the-counter anti-itch creams, like hydrocortisone, to soothe the affected areas.
Contact your doctor if the rash is extremely severe or painful, or if it doesn’t improve on its own within a few weeks.
If It’s Red and Silver and Occurs Regularly …
It could be psoriasis, a chronic autoimmune, non-contagious condition characterized by red, raised lesions covered with a silvery layer of dead skin. On the feet, these lesions are usually found on the soles.5 Mild forms of psoriasis result in dry and flaky skin on the bottoms of feet, but more severe forms may result in the formation of pustules (pus-filled blisters).6 This more severe form is called palmoplantar psoriasis. Though rare, it can occur without any other type of psoriasis present, and it usually will only affect the feet or hands.
Topical steroids and ointments, along with ultraviolet light treatments to slow down skin production and immune cells, as well as oral medications may prove helpful in easing psoriasis symptoms. If more common approaches fail, and if the rash is causing discomfort and pain, prescription medications may be necessary.7
If It’s Bumpy With a Dark, Thread-Like Line Nearby…
It could be scabies, an itchy infection caused by tiny, burrowing mites. The mites are invisible to the naked eye and will burrow under the skin to live and feed.8
The skin may take up to two to six weeks to develop a reaction to the mite, particularly if a person has never had scabies before.
Scabies are highly contagious and can often be found in places like daycare centers, hospitals, and prisons. They can occur anywhere on the body, but will typically affect the hands and feet. The rash will typically appear as a cluster of small bumps that may or may not have scabs on them. A thread-like, black line may be seen close to the bumps, which indicates where the scabies mite is burrowing under the skin.9
A severe form of scabies is called crusted scabies or Norwegian scabies, which forms crusts on the skin. These crusts may house anywhere from hundreds to thousands of mites and the itching may be extremely uncomfortable and painful. A prescription topical ointment will usually help improve the condition and relieve the itching.10
If It’s Characterized By Flat Red Spots …
It may be a rash associated with hand-foot-and-mouth disease or HFMD. This disease usually affects infants or children under five years of age, but older children and adults may get it as well.11
HFMD symptoms also include fever, reduced appetite, and painful sores in the mouth. The accompanying rash usually occurs on the hands and feet, and may sometimes blister.
HFMD will usually go away within seven to 10 days. Rarely, a person may develop a more serious condition.
Consult a doctor right away if the condition doesn’t show signs of improvement within a week.12
If Your Rash Persists or Worsens…
It may be telling you it’s time to seek medical attention. Though topical over-the-counter medications may help alleviate certain rash symptoms, if a rash does not improve within a couple of weeks or actually gets worse, a doctor’s care may be required. Don’t ignore a persistent rash, as it may be indicative of a bigger health issue.
Putting Your Best Foot Forward
A foot rash isn’t necessarily serious so long as you address it quickly and efficiently. Always remember to consult a dermatologist or doctor if you’re unsure of what caused the rash in the first place. Once the root cause has been determined, your doctor can help get you back on your healthy feet in no time at all!