Do you have itchy feet? This can be a symptom of several skin conditions that affect the feet, including Athlete’s Foot or tinea pedis. Although this fungal infection is often associated with athletes, it spreads quickly on surfaces and can affect anyone. However, the fungus develops especially well in warm, moist environments, so people who use locker rooms at gyms, pools, or saunas are at increased risk, leading to the name.
Other risk factors include:
When you first begin treatment, you may continue to have symptoms of itching and burning for several days. Your doctor might prescribe anti-itch medication to help you feel better until the antifungal prescription starts working. Most people start to see a reduction in itching and other symptoms within a few days to a week.
As you get better, your skin may continue to look discolored, dry, or scaly for a few weeks, but eventually, much of the dry, scaly skin will slough off and be replaced by healthy skin. If you wash your feet and dry them daily, this will help your skin to get better faster.
If the nails are affected, the discolored part of the nail will usually remain until it is trimmed off. If the fungal infection significantly affected the nail, it may be several months before you’ve grown enough healthy nail to trim the diseased portion.
After a few weeks, most people find that all their symptoms have resolved, and their feet appear normal again. If your symptoms are still bothering you or your feet do not look the way they usually do, see your podiatrist again. You might have another skin condition causing difficulty, or you may need a stronger antifungal medication to fully eradicate the infection.
You can ensure the healing process goes smoothly by using all prescribed medications as directed. If you have side effects or feel that your skin is getting worse instead of better, please contact your doctor right away. They may be able to prescribe a different treatment or add another medication. You should not stop your Athlete’s Foot treatment without talking to a doctor first.
Another mistake some patients make is thinking they’re cured already after a short time using their treatment. Even if your symptoms are gone, and your skin is returning to normal, that doesn’t necessarily mean the fungal infection is completely banished. If your doctor told you to finish all the medication or take it for X amount of time, you should follow those directions and finish the treatment altogether.
Your doctor may also give you advice about avoiding subsequent infections, such as wearing shower shoes in the gym shower or taking steps to keep your feet dry when you wear unventilated shoes. Following these directions will also help reduce the risk of getting Athlete’s Foot again.
Finally, you should always see a qualified healthcare professional if you suspect Athlete’s Foot or have any problem with itchy feet that lasts more than a few days. Some patients attempt to treat the problem on their own with over-the-counter antifungals or other remedies. Unfortunately, these are not always adequate to treat more advanced infections, and many people need stronger prescription medication. Others may use anti-itch creams, some containing steroids, to deal with the symptoms. Not only will this fail to treat the Athlete’s Foot infection, but it may also worsen it by reducing your body’s immune response to the fungus.
After carefully examining your feet and diagnosing Athlete’s Foot, your podiatrist will usually prescribe a strong antifungal medication as a cream or ointment, with instructions to apply it several times daily. If you have a particularly serious case or do not respond to these topical treatments, your doctor can also prescribe antifungal medication in pill form.
Some people develop secondary bacterial infections due to inflammation and, in some cases, blistered or broken skin that may occur due to Athlete’s Foot. If your doctor finds evidence of a bacterial infection, they will prescribe antibiotics.
Athlete’s Foot is classified into different categories depending on where and how it occurs on the feet:
This is the most common type, beginning between the toes. Frequently it starts between the fourth and fifth digits, but it may occur between any toes. Often the first symptom is itching between the toes, followed by a burning feeling. After a few days, the skin between the toes may become red, scaly, or peeling.
This form of Athlete’s Foot begins on the soles of the feet. Usually, the first symptom is intense itching on the bottoms of your feet. Soon the skin becomes dry and may crack or peel, with the dry skin spreading up to the heel in some situations. In more advanced cases, the infection may reach your toenails, causing them to become dry, discolored, or crumbling.
“Vesicle” is a medical term for “blister.” In this presentation, Athlete’s Foot causes blisters, most frequently between the toes or on the soles of the feet. When these blisters pop, you could be at risk of a bacterial infection in addition to the fungal one you already have.
Although it is relatively rare, a few cases of Athlete’s Foot involve open sores or ulcers. These tend to ooze, and often the affected skin is very red and inflamed. As with vesicular infections, a bacterial infection may soon follow, and many patients need an antibiotic treatment as well as antifungals.
It’s important to find an experienced foot and ankle specialist to treat your Athlete’s Foot. You need a specialist to be sure you receive an accurate diagnosis, as itching and burning feet can be symptoms of multiple other skin conditions. While Athlete’s Foot treatment is usually highly effective for Athlete’s Foot, it will not help if you have another issue like allergic contact dermatitis. Additionally, some people do have Athlete’s Foot, but also have another condition that needs treatment, like a secondary bacterial infection. An experienced podiatrist will be sure to treat all your foot problems.
Dr. Elizabeth Auger, DPM, has treated foot and ankle difficulties, including Athlete’s Foot and other skin conditions that affect the feet, for more than 24 years. She graduated from the Pennsylvania College of Podiatric Medicine, now known as Temple University, then moved to Salt Lake City for her medical residency. After completing three years of training in foot surgery and wound care, she is now a member of The College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Dr. Auger is also board certified in Podiatric Medicine by the American Board of Lower Extremity Surgery. Throughout her many years of experience in foot and ankle medicine, she has treated many cases of Athlete’s Foot and other skin conditions that affect the feet.
There is no reason to wait if you have itchy, burning feet or other signs of skin issues on your feet. If you’re struggling with itching or other symptoms of Athlete’s Foot, please contact our podiatric office today. Our friendly staff will work to get you a prompt appointment, and we can usually fit you in on the same day. The administrative team will also provide assistance if you have concerns about insurance coverage or need help transferring your medical records from a primary care physician’s office.