Athlete's Foot - Causes, Prevention, and Treatment

athletes's foot
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Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that thrives in damp sweaty places, like between your toes. Runners may pick up athlete's foot in a locker room, shower, a yoga studio floor, or at a pool—anywhere they may be barefoot and exposed to the fungi.

Symptoms of Athlete's Foot

Common symptoms of athlete's foot include itching, stinging and burning between your toes; itching, stinging and burning on the soles of your feet,extremely dry skin on the bottoms or sides of your feet, and peeling skin on your feet. Itching is often the worst right after you take off your shoes and socks. In some cases, someone with athlete's foot may have no symptoms at all and not even know that he or she has an infection. Many may think they simply have dry skin on the soles of their feet. In some severe cases, there may be some cracking, pain, bleeding, and even, in rare cases, blistering.

Causes of Athlete's Foot

Athlete's foot is caused by a group of mold-like fungi. The fungi grow best in warm, moist areas, such as the area between the toes. You can get athlete's foot by touching the affected area on another person. More often, you can pick it up from damp, contaminated surfaces, such as a locker room floor, towels, or shoes.

Prevention of Athlete's Foot

Wear flip-flops when you're in public wet areas, such as a gym locker room. Always wash and dry between your toes and make sure your feet are completely dry before putting on your socks. Wear non-cotton socks that will wick away the moisture from your feet and keep them dry.

Consider rotating two pairs of running shoes so your shoes have time to dry out. Wear light, well-ventilated shoes and avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber. If your socks get wet from sweat, try to change them as soon as possible. You can also use an antifungal powder daily.

Treatment of Athlete's Foot

You'll need to treat the affected area with an antifungal cream. There are many over-the-counter and prescription ones available, so ask your health care professional or pharmacist for a recommendation. Before applying the cream, wash and dry the affected area. Then, apply a thin layer of the product, once or twice a day for at least two weeks, or according to package directions. Consult a doctor if it doesn't clear up after four weeks. You may need a prescription-strength topical or oral medication.

A homemade remedy of diluted white vinegar soaks may also help with treatment. Mix one part vinegar and roughly four parts water and soak your foot in it for 10 minutes, once or twice a day.

If the fungal infection has spread to the toenails, the nails must also be treated to avoid re-infection of the feet. If athlete's foot has spread to your nails and they're not treated, the infection will keep coming back. It is important to treat all the visible fungus at the same time.

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