Athlete’s foot is a common infection of the skin of the foot usually caused by fungus.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is an infection of the skin of the foot usually caused by fungus. I think that the common perception of this condition is of an athlete having sweaty feet and sharing a locker room with a lot of other sweaty feet, leading to the idea that only athletes will contract this kind of infection. However, in my practice, I have seen people of all ages and activity levels suffer from athlete’s foot infections.

Infections typically occur on the foot in a dry scaly moccasin distribution where only the skin that would be covered by a moccasin or loafer is affected. In addition, the spaces between the toes are the most vulnerable and uncomfortable since the toes touch each other and often don’t allow for air circulation, creating a super moist environment that fungus loves.

What Are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Many people do not realize they are suffering from athlete’s foot. Some forms of athlete’s foot are so mild that there is only an extremely dry, scaly skin of the heels and soles of the feet that doesn’t even itch. People try to slather on petroleum jelly and the like only for the skin to dry out less than an hour later.

As the condition increases in severity the skin may have multiple blisters that itch intensely and produce a clear, sometimes odorous liquid reminiscent of corn chips. There may also be white peeling, cracking and even bleeding skin between the toes that is quite painful that sometimes is tinted with a green pigmentation. A green tinge could also be an indication of a mixed infection with pseudomonas (a type of bacteria).

What Are the Treatment Options for Athelete’s Foot?

There are many home remedies that are commonly done to cure athlete’s foot. The use of talcum powder, vinegar soaks and tea tree oil may be helpful in curing mild athlete’s foot infections. Over the counter remedies that are recommended are antifungal creams applied to the foot for at least a one-week period. I often recommend two weeks of cream application and I prefer terbinafine compounds.If these home remedies fail, if the fungal infection is severe or if you suffer from diabetes or poor circulation, professional evaluation is recommended. As part of the evaluation process a culture will be taken to find out what is causing the infection and what is the best way to target the invading organisms. After evaluating the severity of the infection it may be necessary to prescribe antibiotics, oral antifungals, topical prescription creams and liquids or laser therapy.

It is also often recommended to disinfect shoe gear and surfaces in the home that are contacted with the bare foot like shower stalls. I recommend the use of alcohol hand sanitizers on the feet for those who have to go barefoot in public during martial arts, dance, yoga and swimming as soon as possible after these activities. In addition, refraining from walking barefoot in public areas is generally recommended so as not to pick up a new infection.

Athlete’s foot is not only the bane of athletes. It can affect people of all ages and activity levels and can actually be very dangerous for those with diabetes and circulation issues. If fungus infections do not respond to self-treatment, continually reoccurs or occurs in those with diabetes or poor circulation, an evaluation by a professional is in order.

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The physicians of Essex Union Podiatry are experienced and dedicated professionals trained in various subspecialties of podiatry care. Click on the pictures below to learn more about our doctors.

Jason P. Galante, DPM,

Jason Galante, DPM, AASPS

Nancy A. Kaplan, DPM, MBA, AACHE, FACFAS


Sarah E. Haller, DPM, AACFAS