What is Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection that affects toenails, as well as skin on feet and toes. Also known as onychomycosis (nails) or tinea pedis (skin), this infection is contagious and commonly affects athletes — though it's by no means limited to athletes. The condition itself is not severe, but it can be embarrassing and troublesome if not diagnosed and treated. Our skilled dermatologists at Clear Lake Dermatology in League City and Webster, TX work with patients every day who have athlete's foot.
Athlete's foot happens when fungus grows anywhere on feet, whether on the top, underside, heels, or toes. Anyone can get athlete's foot, but the condition easily spreads in locker rooms, swimming pools, showers, gyms, and other places where someone with athlete's foot walks barefoot around others doing the same. Wearing tight-fitting shoes, having sweaty toes, and having small skin injuries to the feet or toes can all contribute to developing athlete's foot after exposure.
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What causes this fungal infection?
Anyone can get athlete's foot, but specific behaviors may increase the likelihood of catching the condition. Some of the most common causes of athlete's foot include:
- Sharing shoes, socks, or towels
- Walking without shoes in communal showers and locker rooms
- Having a small skin or nail injury on your foot
- Practicing poor hygiene
- Wearing socks made of fabrics that retain moisture and do not wick
- Wearing dirty or sweaty socks for more than a day
- Wearing sweaty or damp sneakers
What does athlete's foot look like?
If your feet itch, have red, blotchy patches, or damp, flaking skin, then you may have a fungal infection. Our dermatologists can often diagnose athlete's foot by assessing these kinds of symptoms. To determine whether you have athlete's foot, we'll do a skin evaluation, and in some cases, we may take a biopsy for more serious conditions. At our practice, we perform what is known as a potassium hydroxide (KOH) exam. During this test, we scrape off a minor area of the infected skin and put it in a potassium hydroxide solution, which destroys the standard skin tissue in the biopsy and leaves the hyphae of the fungus unaffected, allowing us to diagnose the condition under a microscope.
What are my treatment options for Athlete's Foot?
Most people who get athlete's foot try store-bought topical antifungal medications, which can be an effective treatment in some cases. However, if these products don't eradicate the fungus and the infection continues or progresses, then we recommend scheduling an appointment with Clear Lake Dermatology. We offer several prescription medications that can treat the infection, such as prescription-strength antifungal creams or oral medications (like terbinafine, itraconazole, or fluconazole). Sometimes, we combine oral antibiotics with other treatment methods to heal infected blisters and prevent new blisters from growing. To accelerate healing, we highly recommend following a strict at-home routine: soaking your feet in saltwater or diluted vinegar and otherwise keeping them dry.
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do you athlete's foot and need help?
Athlete's foot can present with mild to severe symptoms that come and go, though often worsening over time. Diagnosing the fungal infection and treating it will help prevent the condition from returning. If you suspect you have athlete's foot anywhere on your feet or between your nails and toes, please call Clear Lake Dermatology in League City or Webster, TX to schedule an appointment with our friendly staff. Both offices are located in the beautiful Clear Lake region south of Houston, TX.