An athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the skin on the feet. Almost one in four people may develop an athlete's foot at some point in life, making it very common. Fungi (fungal germs) are commonly detected in small numbers on the skin surface, but they usually do not harm. Under the right circumstances, they can invade the skin, proliferate, and cause infection.
The fungi spread in moist, warm, and airless areas, such as between the toes. The skin between your toes, the soles, the tops, the edges, and the heels of your feet can all be impacted by athletes' feet. The skin may seem itchy, scaly, flaky, or reddened (purple, grey, or white).
It is more common in people who sweat more or those whose feet become sweaty from wearing shoes and socks. Athlete's foot can also be spread from one person to another from walking barefoot in communal showers or swimming pools used by athletes or swimmers. This infection can spread to other people when a tiny piece of infected skin from the infected person falls off while taking a shower. The infection usually spreads over the skin when a small patch develops. Your skin may become scaly, cracked, or blistered if you have this infection. Sometimes, your feet smell bad, too.
Symptoms of Athlete's foot include:
Red and itchy skin:
Burning or stinging pain
The athlete's foot infection and rash get more painful and stinging as the condition gets worse.
Blisters that ooze or get crusty
The condition is triggered by sweat and moisture because the feet can't breathe when we wear tight shoes. This may result in fluid-filled blisters, oozing fluid, and developing a crust.
Scaly, peeling, dry or cracked skin
Scaly, peeling, dry or cracked skin: The rash caused by the fungus is often red and scaly. As the condition worsens, the skin starts to peel off, and it may itch. There are also visible skin cracks between the toes. The fungal infection can make the feet dry and painful. The scaly, dry skin begins at the bottom of the foot and develops to the sides.
Discolored, thick, and crumbly toenails
Since they are warm and wet, toenails are the perfect place for a fungal infection. The nails start to crumble and become brittle, and debris accumulation beneath the nail causes it to darken, causing discoloration.
Toenails that pull away
Fungi can eventually cause the nail to fall off by growing between the toenails and nail beds.
When to see a doctor?
See a doctor if the rash on your foot doesn't disappear after two weeks of using over-the-counter antifungal products. If you suspect an athlete's foot and have diabetes, visit your doctor right away. Furthermore, consult your doctor if you experience fever, pus, swelling of the afflicted region, or any other symptoms of infection.
An athlete's foot is a fungal infection. Trichophyton is the most common type of fungus that causes the infection. That fungus and other fungi related to it grow in warm, moist environments. Additionally, they can spread through contact with infected items and surfaces and by fast skin-to-skin transmission from one body part to another and from one person to another.
Risk Factors of Athlete's Foot
Athlete's foot may affect anybody, but some activities increase the risk. The following factors increase the chance of developing athlete's foot:
- Sharing socks, shoes, or towels
- Going to public places barefoot, especially locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools.
- Wearing closed-toe and tight shoes
- Keeping the feet wet for longer periods of time
- Sweaty feet
- Having a minor skin or nail injury in the foot
Although complications of an athlete's foot are rare and symptoms are often minor, doctors recommend managing the condition quickly since immediate treatment significantly reduces the chance of complications.
Fungal nail infection
Onychomycosis, a disorder caused by an untreated athlete's foot, can affect the toenails. The nail thickens, turns opaque, turns yellowish, and crumbles. The area beneath the nail may hurt and be inflamed. Untreated toenail infections may eventually cause increased discomfort, issues with wearing shoes, and even difficulties walking.
Secondary bacterial infection
The foot may become uncomfortable, hot, and swollen if this worsens, leading to bacterial infection.
Cellulitis: This deep-skin bacterial infection may impact the skin, fat, and soft tissues. Serious consequences can result from untreated cellulitis, including septicemia or bone infections. Cellulitis, a relatively uncommon athlete's foot complication, must be treated immediately with antibiotics.
Blisters can appear on the hands or feet in patients allergic to the fungus that causes athlete's foot.
There are multiple ways to reduce your risk of getting athlete's foot:
- Use antibacterial soap to scrub your feet and the skin between your toes thoroughly.
- After swimming or bath, dry your feet and the spaces between your toes.
- For moisture absorption from your feet, sprinkle talcum powder or antifungal powder on them.
- To stop the fungus from spreading to your groin, put on your socks before your underwear.
- Put on sandals or shoes that let your feet breathe.
- Do not use rubber or synthetic shoes for long periods of time.
- Allow your shoes to dry for at least 24 hours between uses.
- Use microfiber cloths or sprays to disinfect your shoes.
- Wear woolen or cotton socks that absorb moisture or socks made of synthetic materials that wick away moisture.
- Wear sandals or flip-flops in public showers, saunas, and locker rooms.
- Wash the socks, towels, and bedding in hot water.
Usually, an athlete's foot can be detected by looking for signs, symptoms, and indications. But before making a diagnosis, a doctor may rule out other conditions, including dermatitis, psoriasis, or a mild skin infection. Skin lesion potassium hydroxide is the most often used test.
A sample of infected tissue is scraped for this test and placed in potassium hydroxide (KOH). Human cells are destroyed by the KOH solution, leaving only the fungus cells that can be seen under a microscope.
Over-the-counter (OTC) topical antifungal medicines are frequently used to treat athlete's foot. If over-the-counter drugs are unsuccessful in treating the infection, your doctor may recommend oral or topical antifungal treatments with prescription strength.
To assist the illness healing up, your doctor could also suggest at-home remedies. Many topical treatments are available over-the-counter. Topical denotes that it is administered topically to the skin. A pharmacist may recommend one of the following antifungal medications:
Depending on the severity of the symptoms or if topical therapies were ineffective, a doctor might recommend these oral drugs:
Antacids can interfere with the absorption of oral antifungals, and oral antifungals may also affect how some anticoagulant drugs work. Some antifungal medications shouldn't be used for older people or small children. Consult a doctor for advice or read the medication's instruction sheet.
Children may require different dosages. Some medications require blood tests to determine whether the patient's liver is healthy before taking them since the liver processes them. If taken during pregnancy, some antifungals should be avoided, while others may harm the male and female reproductive systems. People expecting or intending to have children should consult their doctor.
Home care: Your doctor could advise you to soak your feet in diluted vinegar or salt water to help blisters dry up.
Do's and Don’ts
An athlete's foot is a fungal infection that is entirely treatable. Although it can happen at any age and in any season, it happens more frequently in the summer and during the monsoon. It often occurs with moisture, humidity, and sweating. You can effectively deal with this disease by following the dos and don'ts.
|Keep your feet clean and dry||Share personal items such as towels or shoes|
|Wear clean, dry socks and shoes||Walk barefoot in communal areas|
|Dry your feet thoroughly after swimming or bathing||Use the same towel for the infected and healthy foot|
|Avoid tight-fitting shoes||Use the same nail file after cutting the infected nails|
|Use an antifungal powder or spray on your feet and inside your shoes||Ignore any other symptoms such as redness, itching or burning on the skin.|
Care at Medicover Hospitals
At Medicover, we have the best dermatologists and skin specialists who work together to provide the most accurate athlete's foot care possible. Our highly qualified team treats dermatological disorders using the most up-to-date tools, techniques, and technology. Our experts continuously evaluate each patient's condition and response to therapy for Athlete's Foot to ensure a quicker and more complete recovery.