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Spring is here: the days grow longer; the air is crisper; and best of all, the weather is warmer. Spring’s temperate weather means your feet will get busier with walking, jogging, running, and overall more wandering outside. However, increased foot activity also exposes you to one of the most common foot problems out there, athlete’s foot. The good news is that if treated early, it is a fairly mild condition, but if neglected, it can become severe.
According to American College of Podiatric Medicine, up to 70 percent of people will suffer from athlete’s foot at some point in their life. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot is knows as tinea pedis. It causes dry, itchy, and red skin in between your toes and around your feet. The fungus loves warm, dark, and humid environments and it spreads easily by direct contact with contaminated surfaces—yoga mats, floors, the ground of the pilate studio, clothing, gym showers, etc. Most importantly, it is contagious.
Figure 1: Athlete's Foot fungus under a microscope.
The symptoms of athlete’s foot include:
- Dry skin
- Blistering with drainage
- Skin peeling
- Cracking of the skin
If you are experiencing any of these issues, make an appointment with us immediately for treatment. If ignored, athlete's foot can spread to the toenails, making it very painful to walk or perform daily activities. It can also result in serious bacterial infections, including cellulitis.
As with most preventative medical issues, taking a few precautionary steps can help you avoid getting athlete’s foot. Follow these tips to reduce your risk of developing it:
- Keep your feet clean and dry, especially between your toes. Shower daily for proper personal hygiene and don’t neglect to dry your feet before slipping them into your shoes and socks. Air out your feet when possible. Wear moisture-wicking socks.
- Change your socks often, especially when they get wet.
- Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid synthetic materials like vinyl or rubber.
- Alternate your footwear. Give shoes ample time to dry between use. Use anti-bacterial/ anti-fungal sprays to prevent fungal growth.
- Avoid going bare foot in public areas, such as gym floors, boardwalks, and other community areas. Wear waterproof shoes in public showers, pools, and other shared places.
- Don’t share towels or footwear. Athlete’s foot is very contagious, don’t share towels or shoes with others.
Treatments can vary based on the severity of the athlete’s foot and the individual patient, but generally if the case of athlete’s foot is mild, the doctor may prescribe an antibiotic cream. For recurring cases of athlete’s foot, the doctor may suggest medicated powders or sprays to minimize the chance of recurrence.
For more severe cases or if the infection persists for longer than two weeks, more aggressive therapy may be required. In such cases, Dr. Thapar or Dr. Patel may prescribe oral antifungals to kill the fungus in the deeper layers of tissue where topical medication cannot reach. Athlete’s foot is very common, but that does not mean you should ignore it. If left untreated, the skin infection can lead to onychomycosis or fungal nails, which is a difficult infection to treat.
For more ways to keep your feet in top shape, read our blogs. If you have developed athlete’s foot, call Ankle & Foot Specialist of N.J. for an appointment. Dr. Thapar and Dr. Patel are available in five convenient locations in New Jersey: South Plainfield, Warren, East Brunswick, Woodbridge, and Hillsborough.