Foot fungus is a form of ringworm (or “tinea” in medical jargon). It is often referred to as Athletes foot (and occasionally as toe fungus) and is a very common infection that affects the webbed skin between the toes, the sides and the sole of the foot. The fungus in question is a “dermatophyte” (usually belonging to the Trichophyton group) that feeds on the keratin protein in the skin. The same fungus also causes toenail fungus, ringworm of the scalp and jock itch (where the skin of the groin area is affected).
What does Athletes foot look like?
Click to our article on foot fungus pictures for larger size images.
Foot fungus types
There are three types of foot fungus:
Toe web infection – This is the most common type of athletes foot and results in an itching, peeling and cracked skin between the toes. It typically occurs between the fourth and fifth toes, but other toes can also be affected.
Moccasin foot fungus – This primarily affects the sole of the foot. It manifests as a scaly, dry and itchy rash that can turn a silvery color. If left untreated the skin on the sole can thicken and start to crack making movement painful.
Inflammatory vesicular foot fungus – This is a relatively rare form of Athletes foot fungus that is also more serious. The infection causes an outbreak of blisters that often become inflamed and irritated. The blisters can ruptures and secondary bacterial infections can develop. The blisters can form on any part of the foot.
(Note, some people classify toenail fungus infections as a type of foot fungus, but as toenail fungus treatment involves specialized products, it is best thought of as a separate disorder.)
How do you get Athletes foot?
The fungus that causes Athletes foot and other forms of ringworm is ubiquitous and highly contagious. You can easily pick up a foot fungus from floors in public gyms, yoga studios and changing rooms, at the nail salon if instruments are not property sterilized or from contaminated socks, towels and clothing.
You are more likely to develop the condition if your feet remain moist for long periods of time. Fungi need a warm, moist growing environment so it is important to always dry your feet (including between the toes) after showering and change out of socks and shoes as soon as they become sweaty.
Foot fungus cure
There are several foot fungus creams and powders available over the counter to treat the infections. When treating the condition it is import to bear in mind the following three things:
1) Ensure that the affected area remains clean and dry at all times – consider using an antifungal soap for this, followed up with a sprinkling of antifungal powder. This creates an environment that is less conducive to fungal growth. Only wear socks and shoes that are made from a natural breathable material. Choosing a pair of natural cotton socks that wick perspiration from your feet will help.
2) Apply an antifungal cream to the affected area. Make sure you also treat a few centimeters of skin surrounding the infection. Athletes foot infections are known to recur so you want to be diligent in removing all fungal spores from your feet.
3) Follow a full course of treatment. The recommended length of treatment will from product to product but often requires a two or three week course. Many infections will clear up quicker than that but it is vital to keep treating even if all visible signs of the foot fungus have been eliminated.
See more on toe fungus treatment. If your condition does not clear up or you develop a more severe form of infection, you should book an appointment with your doctor as prescription strength treatments may be needed.