Athlete's Foot: Symptoms & Diagnosis
Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the feet. Fungi thrive in warm, moist locations like locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools. Because of athletes’ frequency in these locations, it is common for people who play sports to get athlete’s foot and it is actually this commonality that gave the infection its name.
There are three types of athlete’s foot that are all caused by the same fungus and differentiated by the location on the foot that the rash occurs. While athlete’s foot tends to start at one of the three common areas, it can easily spread to cover the entire foot if not treated. Fungal infections are very contagious and can spread not only to other people but also to other areas of your body causing fungal nail infections, jock itch, or even ringworm.
The most common type of athlete’s foot is a toe web infection. This type of athlete’s foot usually begins between the fourth and fifth toes, but quickly spreads between all of the toes. The rash becomes itchy and scaly, and will begin to peel and crack once the fungi have settled into their new home. When the infection begins to crack, it can easily harbor a bacterial infection as well which will need further treatment. Bacterial infections can cause additional pain and discomfort and make it more difficult to treat the infections. The fungal infection causes itching and burning, and adding a bacterial infection usually causes a foul odor.
A moccasin type infection typically starts on the heel of your foot, but will spread very quickly to cover the entire bottom of your foot. Once the bottom of your foot is covered, the skin will become very thick and may even begin to crack. As with the toe web infection, cracking can allow bacterial infections to join the party which will complicate and possibly lengthen your treatment time. Moccasin type infections are long-lasting, so it is important to keep the infection as clean as possible until completely eliminated. After covering the bottom of your foot, this type of athlete’s foot has been known to quickly infect the toenails as well. Fungal nail infections require separate treatment, but it is important to treat all of the fungus as soon as possible to avoid a recurrence of the infections.
The last and least common type of athlete’s foot is a vesicular type infection. Typically, this type of athlete’s foot will begin with a sudden outbreak of many fluid-filled blisters under the skin, usually on the bottom of the foot. The blisters are very painful to walk on and will often time burst while walking. This type of athlete’s foot is the most common type to include a bacterial infection because of the open wounds left by the blisters.
All three types of athlete’s foot are itchy, embarrassing, highly contagious, and sometimes painful. As much as you feel the need to itch, do not itch as this can easily spread the infection under your fingernails to cause a fungal nail infection.