Our Upland, CA podiatrist office provides comprehensive foot and ankle care – and this means we care for a wide range of conditions. For some patients, we create treatment plans to address a sports injury. Others need a diabetic foot care plan to prevent serious complications in the lower limbs. And yet other patients come see us to resolve skin and toenail problems.
An example of a skin problem commonly seen in the lower limbs is athlete’s foot. Whereas this condition won’t typically keep you from performing favorite activities, it is still one that causes irritating symptoms.
Furthermore, athlete’s foot isn’t something that will just go away if you ignore it. On the contrary, it can spread and become an even bigger source of frustration and annoyance. Given that it’s not usually a difficult problem to resolve, the best course of action is to simply address it and find the relief you deserve.
What Is Athlete’s Foot and Why Does It Develop?
Most people are at least somewhat familiar with the condition, but not many know that it is actually a infection caused by a very common type of fungus (tinea pedis).
Athlete’s foot is usually contracted with the offensive fungus is transferred to a human foot via contact with either a contaminated surface or from an infected individual. Surfaces that are often contaminated include ones like locker room floors, indoor pool decks, and communal showering areas. Fungal spores thrive in such environments because they are usually warm and humid.
Another environment that is often warm and damp is a foot encased in a sock and shoe! Accordingly, footwear can also easily become contaminated by someone who has the infection.
Some good news about athlete’s foot is that out of the various types of fungal infections you could potentially contract, athlete’s foot isn’t the worst.
Unlike a case of toenail fungus, for example, athlete’s foot isn’t terribly stubborn. Whereas the fungal spores that cause toenails to become dull, discolored, thickened, crumbly, and downright embarrassing are able to hide underneath nails, tinea pedis resides on the surface of the skin.
Now, just because it’s not “the worst” doesn’t mean that athlete’s foot is a picnic!
What Symptoms Can You Expect With Athlete’s Foot?
On its best day, this condition is irritating – causing a maddening itch for your feet. The itching and burning sensations commonly known to accompany athlete’s foot tend to be strongest when an infected foot is exposed to air (such as when you take off your socks and shoes), but are also still problematic when the foot is covered as well.
Beyond the itching and burning, other symptoms to note include redness, a scaly rash, blisters, chronic dryness, and even ulcers. Blistering, dryness, and ulceration are generally reserved for cases that are more severe in nature, however.
Due to similarity in symptoms, this fungal infection is sometimes mistaken for eczema or simply dry skin. Of course, if you aren’t sure what problem is affecting your feet, come see us and we will be glad to provide some clarity to you through a professional diagnosis.
What Risk Factors Make This More Likely for Some People Than Others?
Athlete’s foot is both rather common and highly contagious. That combination means this problem is one that many people experience at some point or other in their lives, or at multiple times.
Anyone who has feet could potentially be at risk for contracting athlete’s foot, but the odds of contracting athlete’s foot are heightened in response to several factors, including:
- Frequently wearing tight-fitting shoes—particularly ones made from materials that don’t allow the feet to breathe—and damp socks.
- Having a weakened immune system with an impaired ability to fight the infection, such as from a disease like diabetes.
- Walking in gym showering areas, locker rooms, or on indoor pool decks without adequately protecting your feet.
- Being exposed to items—rugs, mats, towels, and even bed linens (along with the aforementioned socks and shoes)—that have been contaminated by an infected individual.
Also, it is interesting to note that men are more often infected than women.
How is Athlete’s Foot Treated, and Is It Preventable?
Athlete’s foot is an irritating infection—and can even cause pain in some cases—but it is also one frequently treated successfuly by using over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal products (powders, sprays, or ointments).
It is important to note that when you treat the infection with any of these products, follow the instructions carefully – and especially with regards to how long they are to be used. Symptoms may start to go away before the infection is completely eradicated.
Whereas mild cases that are caught in early stages typically benefit from at-home treatment, severe infections (or ones unresponsive to OTC products) will likely require professional care. We can prescribe stronger medications (oral and/or topical) for you.
It’s also important for us to assess whether your skin condition is associated with nail dystrophy. In this case, both the skin and nail conditions would need to be treated in order to prevent the disease from passing back and forth between the nails and skin.
As is the case with basically any medical condition, it’s better not to deal with the problem in the first place. The good news on that front is the fact there are things you can do.
With that in mind, here are some preventive measures you can take to reduce your risk of contracting athlete’s foot:
- Keep your feet reasonably dry (as much as possible). Make sure you thoroughly dry your feet before putting on socks after your shower or bath. In doing so, give special attention to carefully drying the areas between your toes, since this is the area where fungal infections often originate.
- Choose the right footwear. Your best bet for avoiding athlete’s foot is to wear socks that are moisture-wicking and, as noted early, shoes made from breathable materials. Finding the right fit is essential as well, to keep the nails and skin from experiencing any trauma.
- Use antifungal products. Sure, these can be great for treatment, but antifungal products used daily on your feet and in your footwear will lower your infection risk.
- Protect your feet. When you do walk around on a pool deck or in a gym locker room, wear clean sandals or shower shoes so you don’t pick up the offensive fungus.
Professional Podiatric Care When You Need It
The odds are pretty good that you will be able to treat a case of athlete’s foot on your own with at-home care. Plus, following those preventative measures is a great step in keeping your feet fungal-free.
That said, remember that we are here for you if you do need professional treatment – for athlete’s foot or any other lower limb problem you experience. We will provide you with an accurate diagnosis and create an effective treatment plan to restore your feet back to health.
For more information about athlete’s foot or assistance in scheduling an appointment with our Upland, CA office, give us a call at (909) 920-0884 and we will be happy to help!