All About Athlete's Foot

All About Athlete's Foot

Tinea Pedis, commonly known as athlete's foot, is a fungal infection that can take days, weeks, or months to eradicate. The plant-like microorganism causes the condition to thrive in moist, hot environments like locker rooms, pools, and sneakers. Once on your skin, it feeds on old skin cells causing scaliness, itchiness, and peeling anywhere on the feet, especially the hot, moist areas between the toes and on the soles of the feet. Anyone, from babies to the elderly, can develop the condition, not just athletes.

Scratching the infection may cause the athlete's foot to spread to the hands, which eventually touches other people, objects, and other parts of your own body, such as the underarms and the groin (known as jock itch). If hot, moist conditions are present, the fungus will continue to live and spread.

A dermatologist or a podiatrist will determine if the condition is tinea pedis and prescribe the appropriate treatment. The doctor may take a skin sample to check under the microscope but can usually can tell simply by looking at the skin. Treatment depends on the severity of the case. An antifungal agent, such as a powder or a cream, may be needed for milder cases. Topical powder or cream options include terbinafine, clotrimazole, and miconazole. Oral medication may be needed for stubborn or more severe cases. Itraconazole, fluconazole and terbinafine are common oral prescriptions.

Special attention will be given to your feet if your immune system is suppressed or if you have diabetes as mild foot conditions can quickly escalate into severe conditions in such people. With treatment, mild cases can be cleared up within ten days. More severe or recurring cases may take years to fully recover. Some people prefer to treat athlete's foot with home remedies or over-the-counter drugs that are very similar to the prescription drugs.Some complications of the condition include the development of secondary bacterial infections and possible allergic reaction to proteins absorbed by the skin. Some secondary infections can be resistant to treatment, which is why doctors need to know if you have diabetes, cancer, or a disease such as AIDS.

Prevention is the best recourse. Feet should be washed then thoroughly dried each day, especially between the toes. If you are home, go barefoot, and buy shoes that allow your feet to breathe or get air. If you must go to a pool, visit a locker room, or shower at camp, wear shower sandals. There are antifungal powders and spray disinfectants that you can use inside your shoes to kill the germs. If you do develop athlete's foot or any other fungal infection, do not share towels and change bedding often.

For complete details, check out these additional resources describing the condition, medications and treatment options:

Athlete's Foot Treatments and Drugs

Athlete's Foot Photos

Kids Health: Athlete's Foot

Tinea Pedis Patient Information

Encyclopedia Article on Tinea Pedis

Clinical Summary of Tinea Pedis

Athlete's Foot Infection Control

Podiatry Point of View: Tinea Pedis

Diabetes and Athlete's Foot

Fungal Infection Fact Sheet