Athlete's foot is an infection caused by a fungus, which affects the skin of the foot. This fungal infection is one of the most common skin problems. The infection starts from the toes and may spread to other areas of the body. The foot may start becoming itchy and scaly. The skin may also develop cracks and may become sore. The doctor can diagnose the condition by simply examining the skin. Sometimes, other tests are needed to properly identify the cause of infection.
Athlete's foot causes itching, burning, cracking, scaling, as well as inflammation and blisters between the toes. When blisters break, raw areas of tissues are exposed and causes swelling and pain. The condition may also worsen and spread to other parts of the body if you scratch the affected area. It often spreads to the soles of the feet and toenails. The infection can also be spread by sharing towels, clothing, or beddings.
How long does it last?
Athlete's foot usually clears within a few days. However, in serious cases, it may take 1-2 weeks to heal. Other people may also have weeks, months, or even years of the infection. See a doctor if the condition persists even after self-care treatment. Bacterial infections can be prevented or properly treated by using correct medications and early detection.
Athlete's foot has a variety of causes. People can get this fungal infection in locations such as locker rooms, communal showers, swimming pools, gyms, nail salons, and from contaminated towels, clothing, or socks. The infection can be passed on from one person to another by direct contact.
In most cases, the fungus can be acquired by simply walking barefoot in areas where a person with athlete's foot has recently walked. There are also people who are more prone to developing this condition, while others may be relatively immune to it. Members of the armed forces who serve in places with tropical climates use the term jungle rot when referring to this fungal infection. Fungus thrives in moist, warm, dark, and areas with poor ventilation.
Is athlete’s foot contagious?
Fungal infections like athlete's foot are contagious and can spread from one person to another by simply walking barefoot on contaminated floors and other surfaces, as well as sharing contaminated clothing or towels.
There are different types of athlete's foot. They are:
- Toe Web - It is also called an interdigital infection, which means an infection that is between the toes or fingers. In this type of athlete's foot, the infection initially occurs between the fourth and fifth toes. In some cases, bacteria can make the fungal infection worse. Its symptoms include the presence of a red and scaly rash along with a burning sensation between the toes.
- Moccasin - A moccasin infection initially causes minor irritation along with itching, dryness, burning, and a scaly skin on the heel and sole of the foot. When the infection progresses, the skin becomes thicker and tends to crack or peel. The toenails also become infected and may even fall out in severe cases. A combination of different medications can be used for this type of infection.
- Vesicular - Vesicles are also called blisters. In this type of infection, fluid-filled blisters appear under the skin. People with a vesicular athlete's foot are prone to developing a bacterial infection if the blisters burst. In such cases, antibiotic treatment is required.
- Ulcerative - Painful ulcers or open sores may also develop in the feet. People with this type of infection are also prone to developing bacterial infections. Treatment may require antibiotics.
The chances of developing the infection also increase when you wear clothes that do not allow your skin to breathe. Before you put on your socks and shoes, make sure that your feet are thoroughly dried.
Over-the-counter antifungal medications may be recommended by your healthcare provider if you have a mild athlete’s foot. These antifungal medications are applied to the feet and are available in the form of creams, powders, or sprays. Topical antifungals include:
The infection may also reappear if it is not properly treated. To avoid its recurrence, antifungal medications must be used for 1-2 weeks until the infection goes away. In some cases, healthcare providers may prescribe oral antifungal drugs to treat the infection. Oral antifungals include:
Sometimes, when the infected skin is scratched, it may develop a secondary bacterial infection. If this happens, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics for treatment.
Preventing Athlete’s foot
- Always wash socks separately. Use an antifungal bleach solution to wash and disinfect a laundry hamper or a bag.
- You can use chlorine bleach wipes for items that cannot be washed.
- Fungal spores are heat-sensitive and are killed when the temperature is at least 140 degrees Fahrenheit.
- When you are at home, expose your feet to the air to allow your feet to breathe.
- Dry your feet after using a public shower or locker room.
- Avoid walking without socks or shoes, especially in public areas.
- Do not wear other people's shoes.
- When going to any public nail salon, use your own nail instruments, which include nail files, unless the salon practices strict nail instrument sterilization or when they use disposable supplies.
- Always use cotton socks.
- To avoid the spread of infection, ensure that any member of the family also knows how to treat their athlete's foot to prevent cross-infection.
Natural Remedies for Athlete’s Foot
- Instead of wearing closed shoes, try to wear sandals. See to it than your feet are clean and dry. One of the natural remedies for athlete's foot is using tea tree oil. This essential oil is very effective than most antifungal products. It is extracted from Melaleuca alternifolia leaves. To use tea tree oil, apply a light coating on the affected area. To make sure that the fungus does not return, keep applying tea tree oil at least 2-3 times a day even after the signs and symptoms have disappeared. If there is a fungal infection of the nails or fingers, then they will clear up with the help of this oil. You can easily find this oil in herbal stores and health food stores.
- Grapefruit seed extract can also naturally heal athlete's foot. It has proven to have antifungal effects. Apply it to the affected area at least 2-3 times a day. Another way is to combine it with garlic, which also has antifungal properties.
- An important strategy is to avoid any damp and warm environment. Always keep your feet cool, dry, and clean. Make sure that you properly dry your feet even the spaces between your toes. To prevent moisture from building up in your feet, wear shoes and socks that will help your feet to breathe. Your feet will sweat more if you wear socks made of nylon and shoes made of rubber or plastic. It would be better if you wear shoes or sandals that are made of leather and socks made of cotton.
- You can also put talcum powder on your feet many times a day to keep your feet dry. Each time you change your socks, dry the area between your toes. Also, keep your soap and towel separate.
- Jock itch - The groin, upper thigh, and inner thigh may also be infected by fungus.
- Impetigo - A bacterial infection that causes yellowish crusts on the face, arms, and legs.
- Cellulitis - The affected area develops a bacterial infection and becomes red and tender.
- Lymphangitis - It is an inflammation of the lymph channels. If the infection becomes severe, then the infection may even spread to the bloodstream.