Athletes aren’t the only ones who can get athlete’s foot, despite the name. Athlete’s foot is actually a type of fungus and it’s extremely contagious. Anyone can get it, even if you’ve never played a sport in your life.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot (which is also the same fungus that causes jock itch) thrives in warm, wet environments. If you walk around a wet locker room or pool area without shoes on, you’re at risk of catching athlete’s foot. The providers at Washington Foot & Ankle Sports Medicine explain more about athlete’s foot, how to treat it, and how to prevent it.
What is athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is technically used to refer to almost any inflammatory skin condition that affects the soles of your feet and between your toes. Athlete’s foot is caused by sweat, which is more common when you wear tight-fitting shoes or non-moisture-wicking socks. Most cases of athlete’s foot are caused by a fungus, although some cases may be caused by yeast.
The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is so contagious because it thrives in warm, moist environments. If you frequently go barefoot in these types of areas, you’re more likely to contract it.
You’ll know that you have a likely case of athlete’s foot if your feet develop a red, scaly rash and are itchy, especially in between your toes. Your feet will generally feel the most itchy after you take off your shoes. Some types of athlete’s foot also cause blisters or ulcers and may cause dry skin that extends up to the ankles, which may be mistaken for eczema.
How athlete’s foot is treated
Athlete’s foot usually clears up with a simple course of antifungal medication. You can use over-the-counter antifungal medication but if it doesn’t clear up within two weeks, you should come into our office.
If you have diabetes, you are more at risk for athlete’s foot, which may become worse. You should make an appointment to come see us immediately if you have athlete’s foot and diabetes, rather than trying to treat it by yourself. People with diabetes may experience secondary infections after athlete’s foot, including fever, excessive redness, swelling, or drainage.
How to prevent athlete’s foot
Athlete’s foot is often preventable. Wearing shoes is advisable in the type of damp environments where athlete’s foot thrives, such as locker rooms, shared showers, saunas, and pool areas.
You should also avoid sharing towels and clothing in any environment, and avoid sharing bed linens or bath mats with anyone who has a known infection with athlete’s foot. Keep your feet dry as much as possible, including airing out your feet when you’re at home.
In addition, you should wear properly fitting shoes with ventilation and cotton socks. If you notice that your feet are wet or sweaty, you should change into dry socks as soon as possible. Alternate your shoes when possible, allowing them to dry out completely between uses.
If you have an athlete’s foot infection, avoid touching it. Use caution when using towels, as you can spread the infection. You can easily spread the infection to your hands and to your groin, which will only make your discomfort worse.
If you have been treating your athlete’s foot at home with an over-the-counter antifungal medication like Tinactin®, Lamisil®, or Lotrimin®, schedule an appointment with your Run Doctor specialist. Contact us today or book an appointment online.