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What Is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s Foot earned its name because this contagious fungal infection is commonly seen in athletes, who may wear sweaty socks for long periods of activity. It affects the skin on the feet and, left untreated, can spread to toenails and even to your hands or other parts of your body.

Who Is at Risk for Athlete’s Foot?

People of all ages can get athlete’s foot, but you are more likely to get the condition if you walk barefoot in public places such as showers, swimming pools and locker rooms. Keeping your feet wet for an extended period of time or having sweaty feet also increases the likelihood of  acquiring athlete’s foot.

What are the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot? 

Dry, peeling, itchy skin on the feet is a typical symptom of athlete’s foot.

There is usually more than one symptom of athlete’s foot, but it often begins with an itching, stinging or burning sensation between the toes and on the sole of your feet. Other indications of athlete’s foot can include:

  • Discolored, thick or crumbly toenails
  • Raw skin on the feet
  • Cracking and peeling skin on the feet
  • Dry skin on either the soles or sides of the feet

In addition, your toenails may begin pulling away from the nail bed. While athlete’s foot may begin as a minor nuisance, severe cases can cause a great deal of discomfort.

What are the treatments for Athlete’s Foot? 

Fortunately, there are many successful ways to stop athlete’s foot in its early stages with over-the-counter medications. If the condition continues, you will want to see a dermatologist and consider prescription options.

Are there any lifestyle or home remedies for Athlete’s Foot? 

  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet twice a day and gently towel-dry between the toes.
  • Use an antifungal product. After washing and drying your feet, apply an antifungal product. The antifungal terbinafine (Lamisil AT) has been shown to be very effective. Another option is clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF). You may need to experiment to find the product and formulation — ointment, gel, cream, lotion, powder or spray — that work for you. Apply the product to the affected skin as directed — usually twice a day until a week after the rash clears up. It might take 2 to 4 weeks to see results. If the condition comes back, you might need to start applying the product again.
  • Change socks regularly. Change your socks at least once a day — more often if your feet get really sweaty.
  • Wear light, well-ventilated footwear. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber. Wear sandals when possible to let your feet air out.
  • Alternate pairs of shoes. Use different shoes from day to day. This gives your shoes time to dry after each use.
  • Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms.
  • Try not to scratch the rash.
  • Don't share shoes. Sharing risks spreading a fungal infection.