Athlete’s foot consistently ranks among the most common foot problems, like hammer toe, bunions or blisters. It’s an uncomfortable, itchy condition that can make working unpleasant, especially when you spend all day on your feet wearing nonslip shoes in food service, health care or manufacturing.
To avoid spending all day standing on achy, itchy feet, learn more about athlete’s foot, how it’s treated and what you can do to prevent it.
What is athlete’s foot?
This condition develops easily in locker rooms, swimming pools and other athletic facilities, but you don’t have to be an athlete to get it. Athlete’s foot, or tindea pedis, is an infection of the foot, usually between the toes, caused by a type of microscopic fungus called a trichophython. This fungus also causes jock itch and ringworm, and can be caught easily from moist places where the fungus lives, such as a communal shower. Like any fungus, this kind does best in warm, moist, dark areas like a person’s feet.
The American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine explained that about 70 percent of Americans will experience athlete’s foot at some time throughout their life. It isn’t as serious as other foot conditions, but it can be severely uncomfortable and should be treated.
The most common symptoms of athlete’s foot include changes to the skin between the toes, itchiness around the foot or toes, blistering, skin cracking, discoloration, dryness, peeling or scaliness. The condition can look very different in various people and can even be transferred to the hand in some cases, the Mayo Clinic explained.
Although the only way you can get athlete’s foot is from a fungus, the Mayo Clinic also pointed to a few common risk factors. Men are more likely to develop athlete’s foot, as are people who have weak immune systems, wear shoes that are too tight, walk barefoot in public areas or wear wet socks. These can all facilitate the growth of the fungus.
How is it treated?
Athlete’s foot can often be treated at home. As the Harvard School of Medicine’s Family Health Guide explained, if you suspect you have athlete’s foot, start to pay attention to hygiene more closely, being careful to thoroughly wash and dry your feet regularly. There are over-the-counter creams or ointments that can be applied directly to the skin, while powders can be used on socks and shoes. The Family Health Guide advised people to look for the active-ingredient fungicides “clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, naftifine, oxiconazole, sulconazole, terbinafine, or terconazole” when shopping for treatments.
If over-the-counter treatments and proper hygiene don’t show any improvement in about two weeks, you should go to a doctor or specialist. People with more severe infections that are cracking or swollen, or those who have diabetes or compromised immune systems, should consult a medical professional immediately.
How can you prevent athlete’s foot?
Whether you’ve never had athlete’s foot or you want to make sure you never get it again, you can take steps to prevent this fungus from terrorizing your feet. The American Academy of Dermatology explained that wearing flip-flops or other protective shoes in the shower, locker room or other public places can do a lot to prevent the fungus. Additionally, keeping your feet dry and clean can help prevent an infection, even if you do come in contact with the fungus in some cases.
Shoes and socks can also contribute to the issue. Make sure you have socks that wick moisture away or allow for breathing. Consider having multiple pairs of shoes so that you don’t wear the same ones every day, the AAD advised. This can help your shoes keep dry and fungus-free.
Athlete’s foot can be an annoyance. Take efforts to prevent or treat this condition so that you can get back to being comfortable right away.
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