Arrrgggghh! That’s annoying!
Oh, that itch! That insatiable, irritating, exasperating itch that drives you insane, especially once you’ve put your shoes on and are driving in your car. If you’ve ever had athlete’s foot, this probably won’t make you feel any better—but you’re not alone. It’s a common ailment that many people have to contend with at one time or another in their lives. And if you have this condition (or you’re not sure about the culprit for your itchy feet) it’s important to know exactly what it is, the causes and treatments, what to expect, and how to get rid of it.
What is Athlete’s foot?
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that normally starts between the toes and looks like a scaly rash characterized by redness, stinging, flaking, and itchiness. While it begins in an isolated spot on the feet, it usually spreads. And it’s contagious.
What causes it and who’s at risk?
First, let’s dispel the idea that only athletes can contract this condition. While the name comes from the fact that it often afflicts those who participate in sports, anyone can catch athlete’s foot and it’s more common than you might imagine. It strikes when a fungus called tinea pedis grows on the feet. This fungus thrives in a moist, warm environment (like the one found between toes inside socks and shoes) and it is prevalent in communal places, such as locker room floors, swimming pools, and public showers.
Although anyone can get athlete’s foot, there are factors that can increase your risk, including:
- Walking around barefoot in locker rooms, showers, swimming pool areas, or other public places
- Wearing closed-toe shoes with socks
- Sharing socks, shoes, or a towel that has been used by an infected person
- Not drying off wet feet or having sweaty feet for long periods of time
What does it look like?
Not every itch you experience on your feet will be athlete’s foot, so it’s a good idea to familiarize yourself with what it looks like. If your feet are extremely itchy and you have stinging and burning between the toes, or itchy blisters, you should get checked by your doctor.
Other symptoms of the condition include:
- Cracking and peeling skin
- Raw skin
- Dry, flaky skin on the soles or sides of your feet
- Discolored toe nails
How will the doctor diagnose it?
Often, a doctor can tell if you have athlete’s foot by just looking at your feet. Sometimes, a skin test may be necessary to determine the exact fungus that’s causing the infection. The test, which involves scraping a small area of the infected skin and examining it under a microscope, is relatively painless and can help the doctor make sure that there is nothing else going on that may be causing your symptoms.
What are the treatments?
Depending on the severity of the infection, you may be able to treat your athlete’s foot with an over-the-counter, anti-fungal ointment. If your condition is more serious or doesn’t respond to OTC medications, your doctor will prescribe topical anti-fungals, steroids (to reduce inflammation), and, in some cases, oral antibiotics to treat the infection.
How you can avoid athlete’s foot.
Once you’ve experienced athlete’s foot, there’s no doubt you’ll want to do whatever it takes to avoid going through it again. If you wear shoes and socks for extended periods or often use public facilities, it’s a good idea to make some small changes in your lifestyle:
- Use soap and water to wash your feet every day
- Take off shoes and socks when you get home to allow your feet to breathe
- Switch off between two or three different pairs of shoes, so each pair has time to air out
- Apply anti-fungal power on your feet and in between your toes before putting on shoes
- Wear flip flops or sandals when using public showers, swimming pools, and locker rooms
- Wear socks that are made of breathable materials like cotton, or those that wick away moisture
- Refrain from sharing towels, socks, or shoes with others
Itchy feet can be absolutely infuriating! And individuals with athlete’s foot know the feeling all too well. If you’ve already tried over-the-counter treatments and you are not having any luck, give my office a call at 954-452-4590 to set up an appointment so I can help you get rid of it. Move on to happier feet!
Dr. Nina L. Coletta has been practicing Podiatry for over twenty years. Her practice remains on the cutting edge of advancements in Podiatric Medicine, providing state of the art laser treatments, three-dimensional technology to construct custom orthotics and braces, and in-house arterial and venous studies of the lower extremity. From pediatrics to mature adults, her staff provides superior care in a warm welcoming environment.