Athletes foot is a common fungal infection caused by growth of the tinea fungus on your foot. This fungus is especially prevalent in moist, warm environments. It often feels like you have an itch that you just can’t scratch beneath the surface of your skin. While it can be embarrassing, it’s easy to treat, and even easier to prevent.
What are the causes of athlete’s foot?
Approximately 3-15% of the population is affected by athlete’s foot. While you don’t have to be an athlete to contract it, it remains largely an issue in athletic places, such as gym locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools. It’s also been reported in many nail salons. To get athlete’s foot, all you have to do is let your tootsies come in contact with the fungus.
Symptoms of athlete's foot include red, cracked, and flaky skin that’s very itchy. The skin may also appear swollen. It’s most commonly seen in between the fourth and fifth toe.
While men and women can most certainly get it, the fungus is most often diagnosed in males and older adults.
How do I prevent it?
The best way to prevent athlete’s foot is to keep your feet dry and away from any surfaces that may be contaminated. Try these preventive strategies:
- Carry a pair of flip-flops or rubber sandals in your gym bag, and wear them when you’re changing or in the shower. Keep them separate from the other items in your bag by storing them in a plastic bag. Wash the shoes with a sanitizing soap or wipe as soon as you can, and replace the plastic bag before putting them back in your gym bag.
- Wash your feet thoroughly every day. Scrub, scrub, scrub! Pay special attention to the bottoms of your feet and between your toes.
- If you’re going to be participating in an all-day event, bring extra pairs of socks to change into. This will ensure that your feet remain somewhat dry.
- Make sure the floors of your home showers and tubs are cleaned and sanitized.
- Buy shoes that fit you correctly and aren’t too tight.
- Don’t share towels, socks, or shoes with anyone.
- Try not to wear the same shoes two days in a row.
- If you’re heading to the nail salon, ask the technician to place a new plastic liner in the basin before your feet ever make contact with it. This is becoming standard practice in many nail salons now, so don’t be afraid to ask. If they’re unwilling or don’t have any liners available, it may be time to switch to a new salon.
- Another tip for the nail salon: Make sure the instruments have been properly sanitized. Some salons offer the option of purchasing your own tools that you can leave at the salon, that they’ll sanitize for you after use. You can also bring your own tools. Heat sanitization is always the best.
Are there other ways I could contract athlete’s foot?
Yes. You may have a genetic predisposition to it, feet that can be particularly sweaty, a weakened immune system, or poor circulation in your feet and legs from diabetes. All of those things can make athlete’s foot easier to pick up. People with diabetes need to be especially careful since healing of skin on their feet can often be delayed.
Getting treated for athlete’s foot
Successful treatment for athlete’s foot usually involves topical medications -- creams and sprays -- that contain a fungus-killing ingredient. It’s best to treat athlete’s foot quickly, so it doesn’t spread, especially if you have diabetes or a weakened immune system.
While athlete’s foot usually doesn’t cause any serious problems, it’s a fungal infection that will not go away on its own. Leaving it untreated can cause the fungus to spread to your toenails.
If you think you have athlete’s foot, it’s best to get professional treatment. Our experienced podiatrists at Go Feet can effectively nix your athlete’s foot, and get your feet feeling their best again. Simply click the “book online” button or call one of our offices in Mays Landing or Hammonton, New Jersey.