Athlete's foot is a common issue many people deal with, even if they aren't athletes. Although it's easily treatable, it tends to reappear when you least expect it. Once you understand what it is and how it works, you will have the information you need to keep it under control and prevent it from being a nuisance. Dr. Leonora Fihman serves the greater Los Angeles area and is always available if you have questions concerning athlete's foot or other issues. She offers concierge services to her patients who can't come to her office, providing them the care they need in the comfort of their own home.
What Causes Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is the result of coming into contact with the tinea fungus. Direct contact with the fungus, either through touching the feet of another person who has it through surface contact will cause it to spread. Tina fungus is often found on shower surfaces, swimming pools, and locker room floors, basically anywhere that is warm and moist. These environments cause the fungus to breed rapidly. When people walk through the areas with bare feet, they are instantly exposed and the fungus is able to spread from person to person. Wearing shoes that don't allow your feet to breathe can also increase your chances of getting Athlete's foot. During the day, your feet often sweat, creating a perfectly warm, moist environment for the fungus to flourish.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms Associated with Athlete's Foot?
The most common symptoms of athlete's foot involve a red rash accompanied by intense itching. In most cases, you will start to noticed red areas in between the toes. The fungus can grow rather quickly with the first signs being an intense itching sensation and a rash that spreads rather quickly. Athlete's foot can also cause blisters or ulcers to form. Rashes that start along the bottom of the foot and travel up the sides of the foot are known as “moccasin” athlete's foot. Its symptoms include scaly skin and chronic dryness that is similar to eczema. While the irritation and itching may be mild, it often becomes unbearable when your shoes and socks are removed.
How Does Athlete's Foot Spread?
Athlete's foot gets its name because it is common among athletes who frequent public locker rooms. The tinea fungus can grow on any warm, wet surface, but is most commonly found around swimming pools and gym locker rooms where athletes walk around with bare feet. If floors and other bathroom or locker room surfaces aren't thoroughly disinfected on a regular basis, the tinea fungus can flourish resulting in numerous cases of Athlete's foot. People who don't make it a point to wash their feet after using a public showering area are more susceptible to the condition. Athlete's foot can also be spread by sharing socks and shoes or coming in direct contact with the feet of someone who has already been exposed to the fungus.
What Happens If You Don't Treat Athlete's Foot?
If you don't treat athlete's foot, it can lead to a more severe bacterial infection. Chronic dry skin is a common symptom of athlete's foot. As the skin continues to dry and out and the rash spreads, cracks and lesions can form. If not properly treated, they can eventually become so deep they bleed. Without proper care, an infection can work its way deep into the tissues of the foot requiring extensive treatment over and above the treatment for the fungus. Athlete's foot can also lead to toenail fungus that damages and could possibly destroy the nail.
Are Athlete's Foot and Toe Fungus the Same?
The tinea fungus that is responsible for athlete's foot can also cause toenail fungus. Although any mold, fungus or yeast can cause toenail fungus, tinea is the most common because of its ability to grow so readily within the shoes and on warm, moist surfaces. Reducing exposure to the tinea fungus is important if you plan your feet staying healthy and fungus free. Cleaning these surfaces with bleach or ammonia-based cleaners is the best way to keep the fungus in check. Sprinkling anti-fungal powder in your socks and shoes will help to control all types of yeasts, molds, and fungi from growing under your toenails. Anytime you plan on being at the gym and using the locker room, reduce your exposure to molds and fungi by spraying your feet with anti-fungal spray or use an anti-fungal powder in your shoes and socks. This adds an added measure of protection and will destroy any fungus your feet come in contact with.
What Treatments Are Available?
Mild to moderate cases can be effectively treated with over the counter medications. Anti-fungal ointments, sprays, and powders can all be purchased without a prescription. They are easy to use and extremely effective if the infection is caught before it becomes too severe. If the athlete's foot has progressed to the point where your feet are bleeding or you can tell the infection has become more serious, you will need to seek medical attention. At this stage, the doctor may provide prescription strength medications and ointments to help eliminate the fungus and help your feet heal. Sprinkling anti-fungal powder in your socks and shoes will not only keep your toes nice and dry, it will also kill any fungus that may have settled into your shoes. Applying anti-fungal ointment on the rash and then soothing the dry skin with a light, unscented lotion will help to reduce the discomfort of chronic dry skin.
Can Athlete's Foot Be Prevented?
In order to prevent athlete's foot from continuing to cause a reinfection in your feet, all of the surfaces where it can grow must be treated. This includes shower surfaces, bathroom/locker room floors, and the insides of your shoes. Socks must be washed thoroughly after each use to prevent the fungus from growing. In addition to the above steps, you can also:
These steps will help you reduce your exposure to the molds and fungi that are commonly found in the environment. It's also important to keep your feet as clean as possible to prevent bacteria and fungi from growing. Always try to disinfect your bathroom tub, floor and other surfaces at least once a week to stop the growth of bacteria and fungus.
Wash Your Hands!!
It's important to wash your hands thoroughly with warm water and soap any time you have washed or applied anti-fungal medication to your feet. The fungus can also spread to your hands and begin to grow underneath your fingernails. Your hands are exposed to many more types of molds, yeasts, and fungi, so it's important to reduce your risk of exposure as much as you can. Touching your feet can transfer the fungus to your hands, which can spread the fungus to anywhere your hands may eventually touch. Washing your hands immediately after caring for your feet will reduce the risk of transferring fungus to other areas. As unpleasant as it sounds, the fungus can also be transferred to your mouth. Years ago, this was referred to as “hoof and mouth disease”, but now it is commonly known as thrush. In most cases, it's caused by poor hygiene and not washing your hands after they've been exposed to fungus and molds.
Athlete's foot is a common disorder of the feet. You don't have to be an athlete and you don't have to frequent a gym or locker room to be exposed. The more you learn about where molds, yeasts, and fungi can be found, the better chance you will have to avoid being diagnosed with athlete's foot. Wash your feet often and keep them as dry as possible. When you begin to notice any type of redness or severe itching, schedule an appointment with Dr. Fihman to find out if you have athlete's foot. If you do, take the appropriate measures to control the itching and prevent the spread of the fungus to others. Follow your treatment plan until the rash is completely gone. Dr. Fihman offers in-office consultations as well as concierge appointments. Don't risk the health and well-being of your feet. Dr. Fihman can offer you advice on how to properly care for your feet as well as how to keep the athlete's foot from returning. Take care of your feet! Call Dr. Fihman's office today at 818-907-6100!