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Athlete's Foot

■ ■ ■ Description

Athlete’s foot is a common, contagious fungus infection on the skin of the feet, usually between the fourth and fifth toes. It is especially common among athletes.

■ ■ ■ Common Signs and Symptoms
  • Moist, soft, gray-white or red scales on the feet, especially between the toes

  • Dead skin between the toes

  • Itching in the inflamed areas

  • Damp, musty foot odor

  • Sometimes, small blisters on the feet, caused by a hyper-sensitivity to the fungus

■ ■ ■ Causes

Infection by a fungus or yeast associated with moist socks and shoes, because the fungus thrives in dark, moist environments

■ ■ ■ Risk Increases With
  • Walking barefoot in locker rooms and public showers

  • Infrequent washing of the feet

  • Infrequent changes of shoes or socks

  • Hot, humid weather

  • Not drying the spaces between your toes

■ ■ ■ Preventive Measures
  • Observe good locker room hygiene, including using your own towels, walking with shoes or sandals in the locker room, and washing with warm or hot water and soap.

  • Wash your feet daily. Dry thoroughly, especially between the toes. Dust with talcum powder or antifungal powder.

  • Occasionally walk barefoot to air and dry out the feet.

  • Change socks daily.

  • Wear socks made of cotton, wool, or other natural absorbent fibers. Avoid socks made from synthetic fibers.

■ ■ ■ Expected Outcome

Athlete’s foot is usually curable with appropriate treatment within 3 weeks. Recurrence is common.

■ ■ ■ Possible Complications
  • Chronic infection or recurrence, especially if not appropriately or completely treated

  • Bacterial infection on top of the fungal infection in the affected area (bacterial superinfection or secondary bacterial infection)

  • Rarely, an allergic autoimmune response to the infection on the hands and face

■ ■ ■ General Treatment Considerations

Initial treatment consists of keeping the foot and areas between the toes dry. Remove the scaly and dead material. Keep affected areas cool and dry. Change socks daily. Go barefoot or wear sandals during treatment whenever possible. Use antifungal powders, creams, or ointments after each bath. For severe infections or infections that do not respond to topical treatment alone, your physician may prescribe antifungal medicines that you take by mouth.

■ ■ ■ Medication
  • Nonprescription antifungal creams, ointments, or powders can be used on your feet or toes or in shoes.

  • Anti-itch medications may be prescribed as necessary by your physician. Use only as directed and only as much as you need.

  • Oral antifungal medications may be prescribed by your physician. Take the entire course of medication as prescribed.

■ ■ ■ Notify Our Office If

  • Symptoms get worse or do not improve in 2 weeks despite treatment

  • New, unexplained symptoms develop (drugs used in treatment may produce side effects)

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