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Everything You Need to Know About Athlete’s Foot

athlete's foot
November 9th, 2023 / Podiatry

Despite its name, you don’t have to be an athlete to develop athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis). This is a fungal skin infection that usually begins between the toes but can also occur on the soles and sides of the feet. In more extreme cases, it has even been known to spread to toenails and hands.

It’s closely related to other fungal infections, like ringworm and jock itch, and can be treated with antifungal medications (although the infection is often known to return without more thorough treatment from a podiatrist).

We have ample experience treating athlete’s foot at Doubleview Podiatry, so book an appointment with a friendly podiatrist in Perth if you suspect that you’ve developed this fungal infection.

 

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?  

In short, it occurs when the tinea fungus grows on the feet.

Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread through direct (skin-to-skin) contact with someone who has it or by touching a surface that has been contaminated. The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments, so public swimming pools, communal showers, and locker room floors are common culprits. Damp socks, shoes, and towels can also encourage its growth.

Many people are surprised to learn that athlete’s foot can be spread to other parts of the body, especially if you scratch or pick at infected feet.

 

Who is at Risk of Developing Athlete’s Foot?

Anyone can develop athlete’s foot, but there are certain behaviours that put you more at risk. These include:

  • Visiting public places barefoot (such as swimming pools, locker rooms, and showers)
  • Sharing socks, shoes, or towels (especially if they’re already infected)
  • Frequently wearing tight, closed-toe shoes
  • Having wet feet for extended periods of time
  • Having excessively sweaty feet
  • Having a minor skin or nail injury on the foot

 

What are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

 Everyone may react to athlete’s foot differently, but some of the symptoms that you may experience include:

  • Itching, stinging, and/or burning between the toes or on the soles of the feet (which is worse after removing shoes and socks)
  • Blisters on the feet that itch
  • Cracking and peeling skin on the feet (most commonly between the toes or on the soles)
  • Dry skin on the soles or sides of the feet
  • Inflamed skin (which may be reddish, purplish, or greyish in colour)
  • Discoloured, thick, and/or crumbly toenails
  • Toenails that pull away from the nailbed
  • Smelly feet (which can be caused by yeast and bacteria)

 

How is Athlete’s Foot Diagnosed?

In most cases, a podiatrist will be able to diagnose athlete’s foot by simply looking at it. To help confirm the diagnosis or if the podiatrist is unsure, they may order a skin test.

A skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam is the most common test. It involves a small area of infected skin being scraped and placed in a potassium hydroxide solution. This will destroy any normal cells, leaving only fungal ones so that they can be inspected under a microscope.

 

How is Athlete’s Foot Treated?

The good news is that athlete’s foot can be treated relatively easily.

There are some home remedies that you can try, such as soaking your feet in salt water or diluted vinegar to help dry up the blisters. Over-the-counter anti-fungal medications (such as miconazole, terbinafine, clotrimazole, and tolnaftate) are another good place to start, but if they do not work or the infection returns it’s important that you see a podiatrist.

They may recommend prescription medication, such as oral anti-fungals (like itraconazole or fluconazole), topical steroid medications to reduce painful inflammation, or oral antibiotics.

 

When should I see a doctor rather than attempt at-home treatment?

While you should see a podiatrist if at-home remedies and over-the-counter medications are unable to get rid of athlete’s foot, there are some other situations in which you should see a health professional:

  • You are pregnant or elderly (as some anti-fungals may not be suitable)
  • You have diabetes
  • You have a weakened immune system
  • Your foot is red, hot, and painful (as there might be a more serious infection present)

 

Kick Athlete’s Foot to the Curb

Athlete’s foot is nothing to be embarrassed about – this is an incredibly common skin infection, and one that is easy to treat. The most important thing is that you don’t ignore the infection and allow it to spread unchecked. If you suspect that you have developed athlete’s foot, get in touch with one of the friendly podiatrists at Doubleview Podiatry; we will tailor a treatment plan to suit and get your feet back to their silky smooth selves in no time.

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