Ever get that itchy, flakey feeling on your feet? You’re not alone—far from being a plague just for the sports-inclined, about 70% of Americans will experience a bout with athlete’s foot at least once in their lives, and we’ve even seen estimates that suggest as many as 1 in 10 people have it at any given time. Although most cases are pretty easy to treat, we want to help you deal with this annoying skin condition as quickly and effectively as possible to minimize discomfort and spreading of the infection to other areas—or other people!
What Are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?
Classic symptoms include dry, red, itchy skin that may look flakey or scaled. You may even feel a burning sensation. Athlete’s foot typically makes its most impressive displays on the top of the foot and between the toes, though the fungus can spread to other parts of the foot and even other parts of the body. The same fungus that causes athlete’s foot can also infect your toenails (toenail fungus), your groin (jock itch), or under your arms, transferred as a result of scratching or even contaminated clothes or bedsheets.
How Did I Get This Infection in the First Place?
Athlete’s foot is caused by a contagious fungus that loves living in warm, wet, dark environments, like the inside of a shoe or locker room floor. Exposure to contaminated surfaces—thinking going barefoot at the pool or sharing a towel—can lead to a case, especially if you aren’t rigorous with washing your feet every day.
You shouldn’t have to feel ashamed about it, though. While there are plenty of steps you can take to minimize your risk, there’s no way to protect yourself with 100% effectiveness. Most people will get it eventually.
How Is Athlete’s Foot Treated?
The good news is that the vast majority of cases can be resolved with simply, at-home care—no reason to get us involved! Over-the-counter antifungal creams from your nearest pharmacy usually do the trick, provided they’re combined with an overall effort to improve foot hygiene.
That said, pay close attention to the instructions and be sure to follow the complete recommended treatment course, usually 4-6 weeks. It’s tempting to stop using the cream after a week or two, especially if you notice symptoms improve or even disappear, but that doesn’t mean the fungus is gone.
At-Home Treatments Aren’t Working. What Do I Do?
Some particularly stubborn cases may persist, failing to respond adequately to home treatment and proper hygienic care. In those cases, we’ll be happy to give you a hand.
We’ll test to make sure fungus is really the problem, and if it is—and we know standard treatments aren’t working—we may prescribe stronger topical or oral antifungals to finish the infection off. In rare cases the problem may not be fungal at all, but bacterial. We’ll be able to nail down the problem and provide whatever help you need controlling it.
Preventing the Fungus from Returning
Like we said, there’s no way to prevent athlete’s foot with 100% success. However, these tips will help you minimize your risk:
- Wash your feet every day with soap and water, and dry thoroughly.
- Don’t walk barefoot in public places, especially warm, dark environments like gyms, pools, and locker rooms. Always wear sandals or shower shoes.
- Use talcum powder on your feet or in your shoes to help you stay dry.
- Wear moisture-wicking socks and change them out whenever they get wet—more than once per day if necessary.
- Rotate pairs of everyday shoes so that each gets at least one full day to dry out between uses.
If you start feeling that itchy feeling on top of your feet and between your toes, then it’s time to get serious about stopping athlete’s foot, before it spreads. And if rigorous home care does not clear up symptoms within 1 month, give Dr. Keith McSpadden a call for an appointment at North Austin Foot & Ankle Institute at 512-593-2949. You can also book online through our website.