Athlete's foot: Causes, prevention, and
While it's not a life-or-death matter, athlete's foot-especially if
it's persistent-can be painful and make walking difficult.
The early signs of athlete's foot are patches or fissures (deep breaks
or slits), especially between the toes. As the infection progresses,
the skin may turn red, become itchy, and appear moist. Small blisters
may spread out across the foot, breaking to expose raw fissures that
are painful and may swell. The area between the toes is most often affected,
but the infection may spread to the soles of the feet or to the toenails,
which can become thick and colored white or cloudy yellow. In the most
advanced cases, the rash will extend moccasin-style across the sole of
your foot, and your feet may ooze pus and develop a foul odor.
Preventing athlete's foot
Athlete's foot breeds in locker rooms, swimming pool changing areas,
or any place that combines dampness and a lot of foot traffic. I mproperly
cleaned instruments used in a pedicure (either at a commercial salon
or at home) can also lead to infection. The fungus can even contaminate
bed sheets and spread to other body parts through rubbing and scratching.
To control the spread of infection, keep bathroom surfaces clean and
don't share towels The best way to prevent athlete's foot is by wearing
sandals or shower shoes when walking around a locker room or pool. Keep
your feet clean by washing them with soap and water at least once a day,
and keep them dry the rest of the time. Put clean socks on every day,
and change them more often if you sweat a lot or get them wet.
If going barefoot is the problem, then wearing socks and shoes would
seem to be the solution. But socks and shoes largely contribute to the
proliferation of athlete's foot once you have it: They create an ideal
environment for fungi-dark, damp, and warm. Give your feet a chance to
breathe. Take your shoes off while at home or wear sandals or canvas
shoes that allow air to circulation.
Foot powders also can be protective. Apart from any antifungal substances
they might contain, they work to reduce friction between toes and between
the foot and sock. Less friction means less sweat and a drier, less fungus-friendly
How to get rid of athlete's foot
There are numerous options for treating athlete's foot. If the infection
is mild (scaly white patches of skin or fissures, but no redness or itching),
pay special attention to foot hygiene. Wash your feet regularly, and
dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Apply an antifungal
cream to the affected area, and dust your socks and shoes with antifungal
powder. When shopping for over-the-counter remedies for athlete's foot,
look for products that contain clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole,
miconazole, naftifine, oxiconazole, sulconazole, terbinafine, or terconazole.
Consult a foot care specialist if you see no improvement after two weeks
of using over-the-counter remedies, if the infection is severe (the skin
is red, itchy, peeling, or blistered), or if you have diabetes or some
other circulatory problem.
November 2003 Update
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