Most people have probably heard of a condition called “athlete’s foot” at least once in their lives. Some of these people might, however, think this condition only pertains to athletes or those who regularly engage in fitness activities. And that is where they are absolutely wrong. In spite of its name, athlete’s foot isn’t in fact exclusive to athletes, though they commonly have it. The infection does spread in gyms and locker rooms, so one should always be wary of these places because the condition is, in fact, contagious.
Athlete’s foot is a mild fungal infection in most cases, so there is no need to be alarmed if one finds they have the associated symptoms. However, it can become serious if the patient has a precondition such as diabetes or another autoimmune disease.
The infection, also known among the medical community as tinea pedis, tends to affect and spread over the skin of the feet. If left untreated, it may spread to the toenails and, occasionally, the hands as well.
One can catch the fungus, which will then grow on their skin, through direct or indirect contact. The ideal environment for it to grow is on warm, moist surfaces, which is why one would always be more likely to get infected at a public gym or pool.
The symptoms of athlete's feet may vary, but they include stinging, burning or itching on the soles of a foot and toe area, blisters on and between the toes, dry and cracked skin, raw skin as well as toenails that are crumbly or come off entirely. Athlete’s foot can be easily diagnosed by the symptoms alone, but sometimes doctors will perform a specific skin test to substantiate their diagnosis.
Over the counter topical medication will usually suffice when treating athlete's foot, but doctors may also prescribe stronger treatments for fungal infections if the condition persists even after using OTC and home remedies.
Soaking the feet in salt water or diluted vinegar may help dry the blisters up more quickly, and tea tree oil has also been shown to have a positive effect on athlete's foot, so it can be an alternative to OTC topical medication.
Athlete’s foot is mild in nature, but complications can occur if there’s an allergy or a secondary infection. Patients should see a doctor if they find excessive blisters on the feet and hands or if their feet swell, start hurting or they notice any pus.
The key to preventing athlete's foot is having good hygiene and being wary of public places. Never walking at the gym or shower room barefoot, keeping shoes clean and always drying the feet thoroughly after the shower are some of the habits that will keep the fungus away.