Athlete’s Foot

A common skin infection caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte (literally, “skin plant”). It can live only in the outermost layer of skin where there are no living cells. Warm and humid conditions increase the likelihood of infection, as do shoes (especially those made of rubber or nylon) that do not allow the skin to dry or cool. Athlete’s foot is more likely to occur after puberty. The fungus itself does not penetrate into the skin, but substances generated by the fungus seep into the deeper (live) skin layers and provoke an allergic response. This commonly appears as a mild, scaly rash between the toes that may spread to the skin on the top or the sole of the foot. More intense reactions can occur, with bumps, blisters, burning, and itching.

A variety of antifungal creams, ointments, lotions, powders, and aerosols (many nonprescription) are effective in treating athlete’s foot. Creams are often used be-cause they are less greasy and easier to apply. A mild cortisone cream may also be used for a few days to relieve itching and irritation. A rapid improvement in symptoms does not mean that the fungus has been eradicated. Most antifungal medications must be continued every day for three to four weeks to bring about a cure. If symptoms do not improve after a week of treatment, the eruption should be evaluated by your doctor. Unfortunately, someone with a healed case of athlete’s foot is not immune to getting it again, and new contact with the fungus can restart the infection. Keeping the feet as clean and dry as possible can help prevent recurrences.