Why is your foot itching?
You notice that there is a small rash between your toes as you put your socks in the morning as you get ready to go to work. You don’t really think too much of it until later when you get home, remove your shoes and all of a sudden you start to have an itching, burning sensation in between your toes. It starts out as annoying but quickly proceeds to really uncomfortable. What is going on? What did your feet come into contact with that caused this to happen?
Tinea pedis (or Athlete’s Foot) is caused by a fungal infection that usually begins between the toes because they were confined in socks damp from sweat and tight-fitting shoes. This allows the fugus to grow rapidly because it likes warm, humid conditions. It presents as a scaly, red rash that causes itching, burning and stinging sensation. The feeling is often worse after you first remove your shoes. The type of fungus that causes the infection is very similar to the one that causes jock itch and ringworm. As with those, this is very contagious and can be spread via contaminated floors, towels and clothing. Since it is highly contagious, it is not uncommon for it to appear on one foot and spread to the other. It is also able to spread to your hands and groin area if they come into contact with a contaminated article of clothing or towel.
The first line of treatment would be an over-the-counter anti-fungal product that you can get from your local pharmacy. It comes in many forms, such as ointment, lotion, powder or spray. Unfortunately, they might not be strong enough to get completely rid of the infection. If your infection seems like it goes away and then returns, you should see your doctor for prescription strength anti-fungal medication. In severe cases, you might need to take anti-fungal pills by mouth in order to eliminate the infection. The other main concern is reducing the likelihood of transmission from the infected area to an area that was not previously infected (hands or groin). This means being aware while drying yourself with a towel and washing hands thoroughly after touching anything that may be contaminated. On a side note, if you have Diabetes and think you have Athlete’s Foot, you should see your doctor sooner than someone who doesn’t because you are at increased risk for a secondary bacterial infection.
There are several things that you can do to prevent yourself from getting Athlete’s Foot. The most important one is to keep your feet as dry as possible, especially between your toes. You can do this by changing your socks regularly and wearing light-weight, well-ventilated shoes. Another good idea is to alternate which shoes you wear in order to give them a time to dry out. Remember not to share shoes with anyone. It is imperative to protect your feet in public places, such as locker rooms, saunas, swimming pools and communal baths/showers, by wearing sandals. All of these are prime environments for spreading Athlete’s Foot. If you are prone to having sweaty feet, you can treat your feet daily with a powder (preferable an anti-fungal one) that will help keep your feet dry.
Athlete’s Foot is preventable and treatable, the key is to be aware of where your feet have been. If you have any questions about Athlete’s Foot, please talk to your doctor. If you would like more information, please visit the American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society’s page on Athlete’s Foot at http://www.aofas.org/footcaremd/conditions/ailments-of-the-big-toe/Pages/Athletes-Foot.aspx