Athlete’s foot is one of the most common foot infections around the world, which typically affects people who wear tight-fitting shoes, damp socks, or touch contaminated surfaces like locker room floors and swimming pool areas. If left untreated, the infection can spread to other areas of the body and cause even more pain and discomfort.
If you’re looking for a detailed guide on athlete’s foot, this article will come in handy. Below you can read all about the infection, including what causes it, common symptoms and signs you might have athlete’s foot as well as self-treatments that can help ease the pain. Further, a useful list of signs that indicate you should see a doctor right away to get a personalised treatment to eliminate athlete’s foot once and for all.
Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet, typically between the toes. The infection is called athlete’s foot due to athletes commonly developing after their feet became extremely sweaty in tight-fitting shoes.
It is not a serious condition but it can get a bit hard to cure. If you have a weakened immune system or diabetes, suspecting that you have this infection should be a call out for you to see a doctor as soon as possible.
In essence, the causes of athlete’s foot have to do with the tinea fungus growing on the feet, which can be a consequence of having direct contact with someone who is infected or touching contaminated surfaces that have the fungus, such as floors, shoes, towels and more. It can also spread from the foot to other parts of the body, particularly if you scratch or pick at the affected areas.
Since the fungus’ optimal habitat is a moist and warm environment, you can easily catch the infection around swimming pools, showers, and locker room floors if you don’t take the necessary safety measurements. Furthermore, wearing damp socks and shoes for long periods can cause the fungus to develop.
There are a few things you should control and keep an eye out for to determine if you have athlete’s foot. A medical diagnosis is ideal, but athlete’s foot can be spotted quite easily by anyone that has some of the following symptoms/signs.
It can affect one or both feet, and the common symptoms include:
- Dry skin on the side and bottom of the foot
- Itchiness (typically after taking your shoes and socks off)
- Inflamed skin (that can appear in different colours depending on your skin)
- Cracked skin between the toes
- Discoloured toenails (thick and crumbly too)
- Toenails that pull away from the nail bed
Apart from the individual symptoms just mentioned, athlete’s foot signs can vary depending on the type of infection you have. There are four types of infections: toe web infection, moccasin-type infection, vesicular-type infection, and ulcerative infection.
Toe web infections are the most common type of athlete’s foot and it usually affects the skin between two toes (fourth, ring one, and fifth, pinkie) causing it to change colour, peel or crack.
As for the moccasin-type infection, it affects the bottom area of your feet as well as the edges and your heels, provoking sore feet for a few days and later the thickening and cracking of the skin found in the bottom of your feet. Your toenail may get infected too, causing them to thicken and break into tiny pieces that will later fall out.
Moving on to the vesicular-type infection, your heels, and bottom of your feet is the most commonly affected area but the infection can also appear in other places. The most distinguished signs of this type of infection are bumps and vesicles (known also as fluid-filled blisters).
Lastly, the ulcerative infection is the most severe form of athlete’s foot, which can cause ulcers (open sores) between your toes and often on the bottom of your feet.
You can treat athlete’s foot on your own if you pay attention to your symptoms and purchase an over-the-counter antifungal product. However, if your condition doesn’t improve within a period of two weeks or doesn’t go away with the product used, a visit to the doctor is highly recommended.
Apart from this, if you see your foot infected (with the skin in a different lour than normal, like white, grey, red, or purple as well as irritated and swollen) or notice the infection spreading to other areas of your body, a medical consultation is required.
Here are some over-the-counter medications that can help with athlete’s foot if spotted early, and ease your pain.
- Daktarin 2% Cream. This well-known white homogeneous cream is excellent for fungal infections of the skin. It should be applied twice a day to the lesions in massaging motions until it has been absorbed. The standard treatment period can vary from 2 to 6 weeks.
- Lotrimin AF. The product is available in the forms of cream, powder, and spray and states that, if used properly, athlete’s foot can be eliminated in 4 weeks.
- Hydrogen peroxide. This is a home remedy that can successfully eliminate the fungus on the surface of the foot, as well as any bacteria on the surface that could cause an infection. Directly on the afflicted area, pour hydrogen peroxide. It may sting and bubble, so use caution if you have open wounds. Repeat this procedure twice a day until the infection is gone.
- Sea salt. Because of its antibacterial and antifungal qualities, sea salt is an excellent natural treatment for athlete’s foot. It may actually stop athlete’s foot from spreading and growing. Some treatments involve making a paste out of sea salt and other natural remedies like vinegar.