You don’t need to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot


You don’t need to be an athlete to get athlete’s foot. Also known as tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is a superficial fungal infection that most frequently impacts the feet of those who wear occlusive footwear (work boots, patent leather, etc) and those who have sweaty feet.

It may also spread by walking barefoot in public pools or showers. The infection most commonly appears between the toes (usually between 4th and 5th toes) and can spread across your feet.

Initially, tinea pedis includes redness and softened skin between the toes, sometimes featuring small blisters. The more chronic form is red, scaly, and peeling is noted between the toes that can spread to the sides of the feet (often described as a “moccassin distribution”).

Sometimes tinea pedis is asymptomatic meaning you can’t feel it at all. Other times, it is very itchy and can burn.

Diagnosis is usually straightforward. Sharing a detailed history of the infection (how long you’ve had it, how you have treated it) with your healthcare provider is very helpful. Your examination may also include a potassium hydroxide (KOH) scraping which requires taking a small skin sample from the infected area, applying KOH solution to the sample, and viewing it under a microscope for evaluation.

Topical antifungal creams are first line treatments (over the counter Lamisil and Lotramin Ultra for example) and should be used twice daily on both feet for a month.

It is also imperative that sweaty socks are not worn for long periods of time and the skin between your toes is dried after showers or baths. If the tinea does not respond to topical treatments, then an oral medication might be necessary. A split in the skin presents an increased risk of bacterial infection. Should a bacterial infection occur, it should be treated with a topical antibiotic cream.

Seek evaluation from a dermatology health care provider if you think you have tinea pedis and over the counter anti-fungals are not working.

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A lifelong Portsmouth resident, Jim graduated from Portsmouth High School in 1982 and earned a journalism degree from the University of Rhode Island in 1986. He's worked two different stints at East Bay Newspapers, for a total of 18 years with the company so far. When not running all over town bringing you the news from Portsmouth, Jim listens to lots and lots and lots of music, watches obscure silent films from the '20s and usually has three books going at once. He also loves to cook crazy New Orleans dishes for his wife of 25 years, Michelle, and their two sons, Jake and Max.