Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of your feet. In most cases, the fungal infection develops on the bottom of your foot and between your toes. Athlete’s foot is a common health problem and may last for a short or long time. This condition can be difficult to treat and may recur following treatment. It is commonly believed that athlete’s foot is contagious, and that you can pick up the tinea fungus by touching an infected individual or from walking on damp floors in areas with heavy foot traffic, such as locker rooms or public showers. In truth, though, fungi live on many surfaces, including your skin. What makes a person become infected is reduced immunity (there are many possible causes of this) in combination with a foot environment in which fungi thrive (i.e., a warm, dark, and moist environment).
Athlete’s foot is common in people who wear constrictive shoes or boots. This type of closed-toe footwear causes your feet to sweat and creates warm, damp environments in which fungi can grow. Athletes are particularly susceptible to athlete’s foot, due to the accumulated sweat on their feet and in their shoes.
Athlete’s foot may be caused by a bacteria instead of a fungus in some cases. Bacteria-induced athlete’s foot may require antibiotics instead of anti-fungal medication. Certain health problems—psoriasis, dermatitis—may look like athlete’s foot but do not resolve following the use of anti-fungal medicine. Your healthcare provider may give you a prescription for either topical (a substance applied directly to your affected skin) or oral anti-fungal medicine. You should always apply topical anti-fungal medicine just before bedtime and cover it with saran wrap to aid penetration of the substance into your infected skin.
It is now widely accepted the skin fungal infections can lead to fungal infections of your toenails; a condition known as onychomycosis. Onychomycosis causes your toenails to become thick, discolored, incurvated, and painful. Diabetics should be particularly concerned with athlete’s foot, as the fungi-related skin damage associated with this health problem can allow bacteria to invade your skin and causes a life-threatening infection or amputation.
Causes and Symptoms
Some of the most common causes of athlete’s foot include:
- Wearing closed-toe shoes, especially if they are plastic-lined
- Keeping your feet wet for prolonged periods
- Excessive sweating
- Reduced immunity
- Minor skin or nail wounds
Frequently experienced signs and symptoms associated with athlete’s foot include:
- Itching, burning, or pain in your affected areas
- Bumps on your feet
- Cracks, blisters, or peeling areas, usually between your toes
- Redness and scaling on the bottoms of your feet
- Foot odor
- Foot rash
Conventional treatment methods for this health problem involve the use of certain oral and topical medicines. While oral anti-fungal medications are commonly prescribed for this condition, they are hard on your liver, and it may be better to try topical treatments first. If oral medications are used, it’s important to monitor your liver function with lab tests.
One of the most important factors in treating and preventing athlete’s foot is creating a foot environment that is light and dry, not dark, warm, and damp. Consider wearing sandals in place of closed-toe shoes as much as possible to create a foot environment in which fungi cannot thrive. Wearing sandals exposes your foot fungus to lethal ultraviolet rays when you are in the sun.
Keeping your feet dry may also be effective in treating or preventing athlete’s foot. Keep some dry socks handy and change your socks periodically to help mitigate fungal growth. Socks made of newer synthetic materials may help wick moisture away from your skin, which helps inhibit fungal invasion.
Consider buying a shoe dryer if you are a person whose job or hobby requires the use of constrictive shoes or boots. Many over-the-counter anti-fungal sprays or cream may not help resolve your athlete’s foot, as they do not attack the correct fungus or are not strong enough to eliminate your foot fungus.
Since your skin has inherent immune properties, it helps ensure that exposure to fungus does not lead to infection. So, to this end, it’s important to make sure that your immunity is optimized. Talk to your natural health care provider about ways you can improve your immune system health.
In his 18 years as a podiatrist, Dr. Ray McClanahan has learned that most foot problems can be corr...