Athlete’s foot is an extremely contagious infection caused by a fungus that results in itchy, burning, dry, and flaking feet. The fungus that causes Athlete’s foot is known as tinea pedis and thrives in moist, dark environments such as shower floors, gyms, socks and shoes, common areas, public changing areas, bathrooms, dormitory-style houses, locker rooms, and public swimming pools. Athlete’s foot can be difficult to treat due to its highly contagious and recurrent nature.
Athlete’s foot is spread by direct contact with an infected body part, contaminated clothing, or by touching other objects and body parts that have been exposed to the fungus. Because the feet are an ideal place for tinea to grow, thrive, and spread, they are the most commonly affected area. The fungus is known, however, to grow in other areas as well.
Aside from the feet, Athlete’s foot has been known to infect the hands, groin, and scalp. Around 70% of the population suffers from tinea infections at some point in their lives; however, not all of these cases are Athlete’s foot. Just like any other ailment, some people are more likely to get it than others. Those with a history of tinea infections or other skin infections, both recurring and non-recurring, are more likely to contract Athlete’s foot. On top of this, the extent to which a person experiences regrowth and recurrent tinea infections varies from person to person.
Sometimes people will not even know they have Athlete’s foot due to a lack of symptoms. Most people, however, experience mild to moderate flaking, itchiness, redness, and burning. Some of the more severe symptoms include cracking and bleeding skin, intense itchiness and burning, pain while walking or standing, and even blistering.
Due to the recurring nature of the tinea fungus and the Athlete’s foot it causes, practicing preventative measures is paramount. While it may be hard to completely avoid Athlete’s foot, wearing flip-flops or sandals in locker rooms and public showers can help reduce your risk by reducing direct contact between your skin and the floor. It is important to keep the feet clean and dry, which will allow them to air out and breathe. If you suspect you have Athlete’s foot, immediately see your podiatrist to determine what treatment is best for you.