Back to Living Better

Don’t let athlete’s foot creep up on you

You don’t have to be an athlete to get athlete's foot. It is estimated that 70 percent of the population will develop athlete’s foot at some point in their lives. This dry, itchy, red skin on your feet and in between your toes is actually a fungus also known as tinea pedis. It thrives in warm, dark and humid environments, and spreads easily by direct contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. It is especially known to lurk on floors and in clothing. Symptoms include:

  • Dry skin
  • Itching
  • Burning
  • Redness
  • Blistering with drainage
  • Skin peeling
  • Cracking of the skin
  • Odor

Athlete’s foot prevention

As summertime heat draws more people to exercise in air conditioned gyms and play in indoor recreational parks, it is wise to take extra precautions in high-traffic, damp and sweaty areas. Follow these tips to reduce your chances of developing athlete’s foot:

Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Go barefoot at home when possible to sufficiently air out your feet.

Change socks regularly, especially when they get wet. You can also use an antiperspirant spray to reduce sweating.

Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.

Alternate pairs of shoes. Give your shoes time to completely dry between use. Another common preventive treatment is to spray Lysol into the shoes to prevent fungal growth.

Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof shoes in public showers, pools, fitness centers and other community areas.

Treatment

The good news is that athlete’s foot is usually easy to treat with both over-the-counter and prescription antibiotic creams. Most mild cases of athlete's foot usually clear up within two weeks, but it is common for athlete's foot to recur, so some people use medicated powders and sprays to minimize their chances of recurrence. 

“If over-the-counter medications do not resolve the infection in two weeks, or if the infection returns, then it is very important to see a doctor for more aggressive therapy,” says Michael Bednarz, DPM, FACFAS, a podiatric surgeon at Piedmont. “Most severe fungal infections will require oral antifungals. This is because the fungus lives in the deeper layers of the tissue and a topical medication will only mask the infection.”

It is important to detect athlete’s foot early so a more serious infection does not set in.

“If the skin infection is not resolved, it can lead to onychomycosis, otherwise known as fungal nails,” says Dr. Bednarz. “This is a very difficult infection to treat so the best defense is to be very aggressive.”

For more ways to keep your feet in top shape, click here.

Need to make an appointment with a Piedmont physician? Save time, book online.

Related Stories

Schedule your appointment online