You have probably heard about athlete’s foot before – even if that’s only because you have seen “Tough Actin’ Tinactin” commercials on television. But what is the condition, exactly? And is it true that only athletes can get it? Here’s what you need to know before you head to the pool this summer!

What Is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot, or tinea pedis, is a fungal skin infection that typically first manifests itself between the toes. Like jock itch and ringworm, athlete’s foot is caused by dermatophytes: fungi of the Arthrodermataceae family, which include Epidermophyton, Microsporum and Trichophyton. In true parasitic fashion, dermatophytes latch on to, colonize and reproduce on their host’s skin.


What Are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is usually asymptomatic during its earliest stage, which means you are unlikely to know that you have it right away. Once the fungus has incubated for four to 10 days, any combination of the following symptoms is likely to appear:

  • Blisters
  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Dry, scaly and/or peeling skin
  • Itchiness (especially after removing socks)
  • Skin inflammation, which may appear gray, red or purple in color

How Do You Get Athlete’s Foot?

Dermatophytes thrive best under three conditions: warmth, darkness and dampness. This is why they love living inside tennis shoes, and why athletes are more likely to get the foot condition named after them. But because dermatophyte spores can remain active for months (or even years) before acquiring a host, athlete’s foot is contagious even if you don’t come into direct contact with someone else who has already has it.

People commonly contract athlete’s foot when their feet come into contact with contaminated:

  • Socks
  • Shoes
  • Floors
  • Towels
  • Yoga mats
  • Bed sheets
  • Locker room floors
  • Nail salon foot baths
  • Communal baths and showers
  • Swimming pool and hot tub decks

How Do You Prevent Athlete’s Foot?

The best cure is prevention. In addition to keeping your toenails trimmed and clean, never under any circumstances walk barefoot in public places. If you must use public showers or locker rooms, never do so without wearing sandals. Do not share towels, yoga mats, footwear, or any other item that comes into direct contact with your feet!


How Do You Treat Athlete’s Foot?

If you are experiencing athlete’s foot, take care to keep your feet dry, clean and cool. Avoid wearing shoes with closed toes, as well as socks made of fabric that doesn’t breathe or dry easily. Importantly, take care to avoid pools, public showers, and spas. Doing so will help prevent transmission to other people’s feet!

The most common treatments for athlete’s foot are topical antifungal lotions, ointments, creams, gels, powders and sprays such as Lamisil AT, Lotrimin AF and the aforementioned Tinactin. Self-care treatments typically resolve cases of athlete’s foot within two to four weeks. If symptoms persist after that length of time, a doctor can prescribe a more powerful antifungal product than you are allowed to purchase over the counter.

Note that athlete’s foot affects people with diabetes more frequently. If you have diabetes and believe you also have athlete’s foot, schedule to see a doctor right away. Wear different shoes each day until your condition clears up.

Also note that extreme cases of athlete’s foot may pose a risk of bacterial infection. Immediate medical intervention is highly advised if you suffer from extreme pain, notice red streaks or pus, or have a fever.


Can Athlete’s Foot Cause Plantar Warts?

No. Plantar warts are a symptom of human papillomavirus (HPV). HPV is typically sexually transmitted, also transmission via contact with infected surfaces such as towels is also possible. Several effective treatments for plantar wart removal are currently available, including Swift microwave therapy.

If you believe you have any type of skin infection on your feet, seeking immediate foot care from a podiatrist is the best way to make certain the condition isn’t serious and get the best treatment. If you have noticed growths or discoloration on your feet – or if you would like to learn more about Swift wart removal for any part of your skin – then we welcome you to contact Twin Cities Foot & Ankle Clinic today to schedule a consultation at our podiatric clinic in Golden Valley, MN!