Athlete's foot isn't just for athletes. While athlete's foot may be commonly seen in athletes, it can affect anyone. What is it exactly? Also called tinea pedis, athlete's foot is a very contagious foot fungus that affects the feet, toenails, and can also possibly spread to your hands. You catch athlete's foot by direct contact to another person with the fungus or by contact with the surfaces that have been already been contaminated. The fungus thrives in places like showers, gyms, locker rooms, pools, and hot tubs.
Some risk factors that may increase your risk of contracting athletes include having broken or cracked toenails, walking barefoot in public places, and sharing shoes or flip flops. There are certain symptoms you can look for if you think you may have athlete's foot, such as burning, itching, dry feet, thick discolored toenails, a rash on the foot, pain, and cracked skin. If you think you have athlete's foot or any type of foot infection, you should make an appointment with your podiatrist to be diagnosed. While there are many at home remedies, you should follow your podiatrist's recommendations. Often topical remedies are for very early cases, nail removal is permanent, and oral medications can cause liver damage. At Emerald Coast Podiatry, we use FDA-approved laser treatments to remove the fungus while keeping your toenail and it is done right in office. Every person's diagnosis is unique and we will work with you to find a treatment that fits you.
If left untreated, the fungus that causes athletes foot can spread to other parts of the body, leaving you susceptible to other infections. Prevention is key, and you can take measures to help prevent future fungal infections. Always wear shoes when in outside areas and if you must use a public gym or locker room, always have some type of shoe or sandal to protect your foot. Always use your own nail trimming utensils, wear cotton socks if at all possible, and seek treatment early if you develop any symptoms of a fungal infection.