Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin on the feet. It is caused by fungi that normally live on the skin or dermatophytes. It occurs when there is an imbalance of the microbes on the skin. This type of infection usually starts in between the toes.
A fungal infection like Athlete’s foot is very difficult to miss, as it causes intense itching and skin peeling. Without proper management, Athlete’s foot can become a chronic issue. If left untreated, Athlete’s foot can spread and cause greater discomfort.
A podiatrist or foot and ankle doctor is an expert at treating fungal infections of the foot. Below, we talk more about athlete’s foot and its causes, symptoms, and how a podiatrist can help.
Causes of Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is highly contagious and can be contracted in several ways:
- Direct contact: The fungus responsible for athlete’s foot can be spread through direct contact with an infected person or by touching contaminated surfaces, such as locker room floors, showers, or towels. It can also spread between partners.
- Damp environments: Fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, making places like public swimming pools, gyms, and communal showers common sources of transmission. Additionally, when feet sweat heavily and are not aired out, it could lead to Athlete’s foot.
- Enclosed Footwear: Wearing tight, non-breathable, enclosed shoes or sharing shoes with an infected individual can increase the risk of developing Athlete’s foot.
- Weakened immune system: Individuals with a weakened immune system, such as diabetes, may be impaired from fighting fungal infections and are highly susceptible to them.
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
The signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot can vary from person to person, but common indications include:
- Itching and burning: The affected area may feel intensely itchy and may cause a burning sensation.
- Redness and inflammation: The skin between the toes and on the soles of the feet may appear red, swollen, and inflamed.
- Peeling and cracking: The skin may start to peel, and small cracks may develop, leading to discomfort.
- Blisters: In some cases, blisters may form and break, causing further irritation.
- Odor: Athlete’s foot can sometimes be accompanied by a foul odor due to bacterial growth on the infected skin.
How a Podiatrist Can Help
If you suspect you have athlete’s foot or are experiencing persistent symptoms despite applying treatment for two weeks, it is best to consult a podiatrist.
Some of the Athlete’s foot treatments a podiatrist can provide include:
1. An accurate diagnosis
A podiatrist will examine your feet and may perform tests, such as a skin scraping or culture, to confirm the presence of a fungal infection and rule out other conditions. This is a highly critical step for treatment to be successful and is why self-treatment most often fails.
2. A range of treatment options
Podiatrists can recommend appropriate treatment options based on the severity of the infection. This may include prescription-strength antifungal creams or oral medications or a combination of both to eliminate the fungus and relieve symptoms.
3. Athlete’s foot prevention
Podiatrists can provide guidance on how to prevent future Athlete’s foot infections. Many lifestyle and home remedies can be done to prevent the infection from returning.
Some of the preventive practices against Athlete’s foot include:
- Keeping feet clean and dry
- Changing socks frequently
- Wearing breathable footwear
- Alternating footwear and not sharing footwear with others
- Avoiding walking barefoot in public areas
Patient education and highly individualized recommendations can be very helpful in fungal infection prevention.
4. Addressing complications
Podiatrists are also experienced in treating complications from Athlete’s foot. They can treat fungal infections that have spread or have progressed to blisters or cellulitis.
Athlete’s foot may seem like a superficial issue, but it can cause severe discomfort and lead to complications. Seeking assistance from a knowledgeable podiatrist ensures you are on the right track to recovery.
Foot and Ankle Doctor in Naples, FL
For the expert treatment of fungal infection of the foot, consult Dr. Cody Togher, our foot and ankle doctor at the Joint Replacement Institute in Naples, Florida. Dr. Togher can treat Athlete’s foot and the complications that can arise from it. Even better, Dr. Togher can help you prevent complications from a fungal infection.
Set yourself free from the discomfort and limitations from a fungal infection. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Togher, call our office today at (239) 261-2663 or use our online request form. We have friendly staff ready to assist you with all your podiatry needs!