An itch is a simple problem, but it can cause significant discomfort. Until you scratch it or it goes away on its own, the feeling can distract you and make normal activities difficult. You just want relief. When this feeling develops in your feet—especially if the problem doesn’t subside on its own, like athlete’s foot—it can make your whole life uncomfortable.
Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection on the skin of the feet. Despite its name, it isn’t limited to sports lovers or locker room troubles. The microorganisms that cause the condition grow almost anywhere warm and damp. Though a fungus is usually the source of the problem, occasionally mold or yeast can be the culprit. You pick up the infection by being exposed to it in the environment around you. Public pools or restrooms, saunas, community showers, and similar locations are regular breeding grounds for the fungus. If your feet provide a favorable atmosphere, it finds a home on your skin. Sweaty feet that spend a lot of time in shoes are particularly susceptible.
As the microorganisms multiply and spread, they break down the surface of the skin. The whole infected area becomes inflamed. This results in dry, flaky or scaly skin. Typically your feet itch or burn. Sometimes the condition can lead to blister formations and cracks, which can provide an opening to your body for bacteria. A fungal infection like this is highly contagious—it can spread to both the people and the objects around you just by coming into contact with the affected skin.
Restoring the Skin
You will have to take intentional steps to eliminate athlete’s foot. The infection doesn’t disappear on its own. The longer you leave it to fester, in fact, the harder it is to eradicate. It can also develop complications, like spreading to your nails or allowing secondary bacterial infections to develop. This is a particularly dangerous risk for people with diabetes, since their immune systems are compromised.
Dr. Evan Merrill and Dr. Adam Gerber will evaluate your feet and help you determine the best path of treatment to pursue. They may recommend topical antifungal medications, which are frequently successful. These can be ointments, lotions, sprays, or powders. You will most likely need to use antifungal sprays or powders in your shoes as well, to make sure you don’t re-infect your feet every time you put those on. More severe infections may require oral medications.
Preventing an infection before it takes hold is better than trying to cure it after the fact. Wear shoes that allow your feet to breathe rather than trapping heat and moisture. Use socks that wick perspiration away from your skin, and change them every day at the very least. In high-risk areas like pools or public showers, wear water sandals or flip-flops for protection.
If your feet itch and burn, and you notice your skin peeling, you may have athlete’s foot. Although it’s unpleasant, you can take care of the issue by getting treatment right away. Don’t wait for the problem to spread all over your lower limbs—or to your loved ones. Seek nail and skin care by contacting the experts at Southern Oregon Foot & Ankle, for an appointment or more information. Fill out the online contact form or call (541) 776-3338 to reach our Medford office.