Athletes foot is a common problem caused by a fungus infection of the skin. The name tends to be a source of confusion, it's not just athletes and weekend warriors who get athletes foot. The foot is at high risk for fungus infections; wearing socks and shoes tends to create a dark, moist, warm environment where fungus loves to grow. The infection is contagious and can be contracted from any number of places, but the prime suspects are usually nail salons, gym locker rooms, swimming pools or sharing a shower with a family member who has the infection. People with a weak immune system, such as those with diabetes, tend to be much higher risk for the problem.
Another source of confusion is that many patients do not recognize a rash on their foot as athletes foot because the infection may take on several different appearances.
- A white, peeling rash with a bad smell around the spaces in between the toes, most commonly between the fourth and fifth toes.
- Blisters which drain clear fluid in the arch area of the foot.
- A red, scaling rash to the bottom and sides of the foot may also be an athletes foot infection.
- The classic symptom of itching is frequently, but not always present.
A skin shave specimen may be a good idea to rule out athletes foot from other common rashes of the foot, such as eczema and psoriasis.
The initial treatment of athletes foot is geared toward making the environment less friendly for fungus to grow. This entails wearing well ventilated or open toed shoes, changing socks regularly and applying a drying agent to the skin such as Desenex, Gold Bond or talcum powder after showers. Soaking the foot in a drying solution such as Epsom salts solution may be helpful. An over the counter antifungal , such as lamisil or lotrimin may be effective. A good rule of thumb is if all of the above are attempted for two weeks and you don't see any improvement, a trip to the doctor is the next smart move.
Athletes foot should never be ignored because the infection may spread to the nails, leading to thick, discolored and potentially painful nail deformities. Athletes foot can even lead to breakdown of the skin layer to the point where a more serious bacterial infection can occur. If you or a loved one suspects an athletes foot infection see your local podiatrist, they can help you get back to living a happy, healthy and itch free life.