You don't have to be an athlete to have athlete's foot (tinea pedis). The condition got its name because it is spread in warm, moist places such as locker rooms. Athlete's foot is actually caused by a fungus or a type of mold, less often by a yeast. Fungus flourishes in dark, warm, moist environments. Shoes, being an occlusive covering of the foot, can be like a fungal heaven.
Clinical Appearance of Athlete's Foot
Athlete's foot can appear as cracked and peeling skin between the toes or on the bottom of the foot. It is often itchy but not always. Sometimes the flaking, scaling, or dry skin that you think is just a bit of excessive dryness is in reality evidence of athlete's foot. Small blisters may occur in conjunction with some fungal infections.
Between the toes the skin can become macerated or excessively soft and mushy. The fungus can go deeper into the skin through cracks or breaks, so that bacteria enters and causes a more troubling secondary bacterial infection.
Preventing Athlete's Foot
As with many things, the best cure is prevention. Since moisture is a risk factor, keeping your feet dry is important. Make sure you dry your feet carefully after showers. In the locker room, consider wearing shower sandals to limit exposure to any areas contaminated with fungus. Be careful to dry between your toes, and make sure your feet are dry before putting on your socks. You might sprinkle an antifungal foot powder in your shoes or on your feet.
Another important thing to remember is that cotton socks hold moisture against the foot rather than allowing it to readily evaporate. It is best to wear socks made of non-cotton material that wicks moisture away from the foot.
Treating Athlete's Foot
Mild fungal infections can be treated with over-the-counter medicine readily found in your pharmacy. Stubborn fungal infections require prescription-strength medicine. Make certain you follow directions for prevention to avoid a recurrence and to speed up elimination of the fungal infection. Keeping your feet dry is key to eliminating and preventing re-infection.