Athlete’s Foot: Not Restricted to Cleats or Athletes
The name is misleading—sports lovers are not the only ones who develop athlete’s foot, though it is not uncommon for them to contract it. Even if you haven’t experienced it yourself, you’ve probably heard of it. It’s a stubborn infection that gets in your shoes and on your feet and spreads easily to other surfaces or people. Though it may not seem like a big deal at first, it can be an extremely uncomfortable skin condition that could also allow more serious complications and infections to develop.
The Source of Athlete's Foot
Athlete’s foot is an infection typically caused by fungi called dermatophytes that grow on the top layers of your skin. The fungus thrives in a warm, damp environment, so if you are exposed to it and your feet and shoes foster the right atmosphere, you will develop an infection. Affected skin becomes dry and itchy, especially between your toes and on the soles and sides of your feet. The area may peel or become scaly. You may also experience a burning sensation. Sometimes the skin develops cracks or blisters, which can become swollen and infected, causing serious complications. The microorganisms can even spread to the nails, leading to a fungal toenail infection and making the condition harder to eliminate.
Since the fungus exists in the environment around you, it can be caught from many different places. Anywhere that provides an atmosphere for growth is a high-risk location. Public places that are generally warm and damp, like pools, locker rooms, community showers, and saunas, are particularly notorious. You can also get it from direct contact with the skin of an infected person, or even their shoes or socks.
Eliminating the Problem
Many products exist for treating athlete’s foot. You’ve probably seen some over-the-counter products advertised regularly. For mild problems, these products may provide some relief, but for a stubborn or recurring infection, you will need more aggressive treatment. The fungal experts at Dallas Podiatry Works will examine your feet thoroughly and possibly take a sample of the affected tissues for laboratory testing to confirm the diagnosis. Once the exact cause of the infection is determined, they can work with you to develop a successful treatment plan.
You may be given a prescription for topical or oral anti-fungal medication, or for a combination of the two. If you have developed a secondary bacterial infection from your cracked skin, you may need to take additional medication to fight it. Drs. Joel W. Brook and David R. Northcutt also provide a home care regimen to offer more immediate relief and encourage healing. If the infection spreads to your toenails, they can recommend nail-specific treatments, such as a laser procedure.
Protecting Against Fungus
Once you’ve contracted a fungal infection, it is easier to get one again, so taking some simple precautions can help you avoid a recurrence—or even an infection in the first place. Since the fungus exists in the environment around you, it is impossible to avoid it all together; however, you can limit your chances of contracting a problem. Use sandals or shower shoes in high-risk public places to avoid direct contact with potentially contaminated surfaces. Use shoes that don’t squeeze your toes and allow airflow to your feet, so you are less likely to sweat and provide that ideal breeding ground. Wear clean socks made of natural materials or synthetics that wick away moisture, and change them at least once a day. When you wash your feet, always dry them completely, including between the toes.
If you suspect you have athlete’s foot, or if you have a stubborn or recurring infection, you don’t have to suffer with uncomfortable feet. Treatment is painless and easy. The sooner you take care of a fungal infection, the less of a chance you give it to become serious or develop complications. Don’t wait and hope it goes away—contact the experts at Dallas Podiatry Works for an appointment or more information by visiting the online contact page, or by calling one of our two office locations: to reach our Dallas office, call (972) 566-7474; for our Plano location, call (972) 943-3323.