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Close up of tinea pedis aka athlete's foot

Athlete’s Foot 101: Symptoms, Causes, and Top Treatment Options

What causes athlete’s foot? Why are the symptoms so uncomfortable? Why is it so contagious? How do I get rid of it once and for all? These are just a few questions you may have about this troublesome foot condition. Let’s unpack everything there is to know about athlete’s foot and answer all of your questions! 

Causes of Athlete’s Foot

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“Athlete’s foot” is a misnomer; anyone can contract it. The term may come from the fact that athletes spend more time in places where it can spread, but the condition truly does not discriminate. Tinea pedis is the medical term for athlete’s foot. It is caused by fungi called dermatophytes which grow and thrive in damp, warm environments like public showers and locker rooms, as well as moist socks, towels and shoes. 

Athlete’s foot is highly contagious and you can contract it if your bare feet touch a contaminated surface. It can also spread if you share towels, shoes and socks with someone who has it, or via skin-to-skin contact. 

Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot

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Athlete’s foot has an annoying persistence that keeps you on your toes—literally! It presents itself as a nagging itch, usually on and between the toes, and can affect both feet. It can mimic an allergic reaction, eczema, psoriasis, or impetigo. You may also have the following additional symptoms: 

  • Translucent, white and wet skin between the toes
  • A scaly rash
  • Stinging and burning sensations
  • Foot odour from the infection 
  • Dry skin on the bottom and sides of the feet
  • Worsening itch after taking off shoes and socks
  • Blisters

One of the most challenging aspects of this foot condition is its relentless, chronic nature. If you don’t directly target the underlying foot fungus, it can become recurring and cause the following additional problems: 

  • Spread to other people.
  • Affect your nail health (onychomycosis).
  • Lead to infected open sores and blisters.
  • Spread to other parts of the body (like jock itch in the groin).

Treatment and Preventing Athlete’s Foot

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As bad as athlete’s foot sounds, it’s relatively easy to prevent it if you are proactive, cautious and understand how contagious it is. It can also be easily treated in its early stages before it spreads to the toenails.

At the first signs, you can try an over-the-counter topical antifungal. Make sure you follow instructions thoroughly and apply the medicine to all visible fungus and itchy areas that have developed a rash. If it persists, you may need an oral antifungal pill or prescription cream. Additional treatment can include skin and nail damage repair due to fungal infections from a chiropodist. Once the infection gets under the toenail, it becomes more difficult to treat and will require treatment by a chiropodist.

Preventing athlete’s foot successfully means investing in foot deodorants and anti-fungal sprays, and most importantly, keeping your feet and socks clean and dry! 

Furthermore, avoid contracting it by protecting your feet with shoes or flip flops in communal areas like locker rooms, showers, and public pools. You should also never share personal items where fungus can breed, like towels and socks.

Image Credit: FreePik

Need Help Preventing Athlete's Foot?

At Feet First Clinic, we carry various products that help ward off fungal infections. Our chiropodists can also help heal damaged skin caused by chronic infections. Call us at (416) 769 3338 or book an appointment here!

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Carolina Charles

Patient Relation Coordinator (She/Her)

If you’ve been to the clinic before, chances are you had the pleasure of meeting Carolina! Carolina’s daily goal is going above and beyond to make sure patients are always completely satisfied. Having worked in the podiatry industry for 22 years, Carolina brings a wealth of knowledge pertaining to client service, insurance policies, and procedures.​ She steers the ship to make sure everything runs smoothly on the daily. Carolina is known for spicing up every outfit with her signature costume jewellery.