Athlete's foot, scientifically known as Tinea Pedis, is a contagious fungal infection specific to the feet. Here in Brevard County in Melbourne, Florida, this condition is more common since the climate is warm, so the feet tend to sweat more. This is also why it is known as “Athlete’s foot” since most athletes are frequently in environments or facilities, such as swimming pools or gyms, where fungus flourishes, especially in the showers and locker rooms.
Athlete's foot generally results in dry, itchy, scaly skin and is seen between the toes and on the bottom of your feet. This can spread to the toenails as well, and in more severe cases can cause blisters, cracks, inflammation, and even more advanced bacterial infections.
That is why it is imperative that you wash, and more essentially dry, your feet on a daily basis, especially if you walk around barefoot a lot. In fact, it is best that you avoid going barefoot as much as possible to reduce the risk of Tenia Pedis. Visit our foot and ankle specialist at Space Coast Foot & Ankle Center in Brevard County for an assessment and treatment options for Athlete's foot.
What is Tinea Pedis
As previously mentioned, Tinea Pedis or athletes foot is a fungal infection. This infection usually starts between the toes. While this fungal infection is specific to feet, it can spread to the toenails and hands. Tinea Pedis can also spread by way of contaminated towels, clothing, or floors. It is closely related to other fungal infections like jock itch and ringworm. The cause of Tinea Pedis is by the same kind of fungus that results in jock itch and ringworm. The growth of this organism is favored in warm, humid conditions and damp shoes and socks.
Athlete’s Foot Risk Factors
Anyone can develop athlete’s foot. However, there are certain behaviors that increase those risks. These factors include:
• Have sweaty feet
• Wear tight, closed-toe shoes
• Share towels, shoes, or socks with an infected individual
• Have a minor nail or skin injury on your foot
• Maintain wet feet for extended periods of time
• Visit public place barefoot, such as showers, swimming pools, saunas, and locker rooms
Athlete’s Foot Complications
Other parts of the body that Athlete’s foot can spread to include:
• Nails – The fungus associated with Tinea Pedis can also infect the toenails. This area of the body is more resistant to treatment.
• Hands – A similar infection may develop on one or both hands of an individual who picks or scratches at the infected areas of their feet.
• Groin – The same fungus that resulted in athlete’s foot is often the cause of jock itch. It is common for this fungus infection to spread from the feet to the groin areas as the organism can travel on a towel or your hands.
Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot
Symptoms of this fungus infection are numerous. Some include:
• Itching, burning, stinging between the toes or the sole of the feet
• Blisters that itch on the feet
• Raw skin on the feet
• Dry skin on the sided or soles of the feet
• Cracking and peeling skin on the feet, especially between the toes as well as the soles
• Discolored, crumbly, and thick toenails
• Toenails pull away from the nail bed
Diagnosis of Athlete’s Foot
In some cases of Tinea Pedis, the doctor may make a diagnosis by the symptoms. However, they may order a skin test as well if he or she is unsure that a fungal infection is a cause for these symptoms.
One of the more common tests for Tinea Pedis is known as a skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. A tiny area of the infected skin is scraped off and is placed in potassium hydroxide. Normal cells are destroyed in this solution, with the fungal cells left untouched to make them easy to see while under a microscope.
Treatment of Athlete’s Foot
Most cases of Athlete’s foot are treated with over-the-counter topical antifungal medications. However, a doctor may prescribe an oral or topical prescription-strength antifungal medication if the over-the-counter medications do not treat the infection. Also, it is common for doctors to recommend at-home treatments to resolve the infection.
Several over-the-counter medications that treat Tinea Pedis are available, including:
• Miconazole (Desenex)
• Tolnaftate (Tinactin)
• Butenafine (Lotrimin Ultra)
• Clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF)
• Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)
In addition to over-the-medications, there are prescription medications available to treat athlete’s foot. A doctor may prescribe one or more of the following:
- • Oral antifungal medications – some of these include fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), or prescription-strength terbinafine (Lamisil)
- • Prescription-strength topical clotrimazole or miconazole
- • To reduce painful inflammation of the infection a doctor may prescribe topical steroid medications
- • If a bacterial infection develops due to blister or raw skin a doctor may prescribe oral antibiotics
Alternative Therapy for Tinea Pedis
There has been some success in the use of tea tree oil for treatment of athlete’s foot. It is important to note however, contact dermatitis can result in some individual that used tea tree oil. Prior to use, it is important to ask your doctor if they recommend this solution. Tinea Pedis fungal infections can range from mild to severe. While some clear up relatively quickly, others take much longer. In most cases, these infections respond well to antifungal treatment. There are, however, some cases that are difficult to eliminate. To keep athlete’s foot from returning, it may be necessary for long-term treatment with an antifungal medication.
Athlete’s Foot Prevention
There are numerous things you may do to help prevent this fungal infection, including:
- • Change socks regularly
- • Wear well-ventilated, light shoes
- • Keep feet dry, including between the toes
- • Alternate pairs of shoes
- • Treat feet with powder, such as an antifungal powder
- • While in public, protect feet with waterproof shoes or sandals
- • Do not share shoes
Dr. Jack MacKenney, or Space Coast Foot & Ankle Center located in Melbourne, specializes in the treatment of Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot). Visit or call us for more information about athlete’s foot.