Athlete’s Foot: When Fungus Finds a Comfy Home in Your Feet

woman with itchy bare feet

Dermatophytes are fungi that like to take up residence in people’s feet and toes, causing athlete’s foot. The fungi enter through the front door – a cut or scrape on the foot. They sit down in a comfy chair – like the space between your toes.  These ‘guests’ open the fridge and find stuff they like to snack on – such as hair, skin, and nails. Then, they enjoy hanging around so much that they invite their friends. Pretty soon, the fungus is spreading all over. Your feet itch and your toes look like nobody’s cleaned the place in ages.

You’ll probably know if your feet have become party central for dermatophytes. Symptoms such as cracked skin in between your toes or itchy, dry, scaly skin on the soles and sides of your feet speak loudly and clearly.

How to keep fungus out

Fungi thrive in moisture. Humans get fungal infections when we walk in places that are constantly wet, like pool decks, public shower stalls, and locker rooms. But there are some simple ways to prevent your feet from becoming a gateway for these organisms:

  • Never walk barefoot in communal, damp areas. Wear flip-flops to create a barrier between your skin and the fungus.
  • Cover cuts or scrapes with a bandage.
  • Keep your feet clean and dry. Change quickly out of sweaty socks. Wash your feet daily and dry them thoroughly, including the spaces between your toes.
  • Don’t share socks, shoes, towels, sheets, or toenail clippers with someone who’s got athlete’s foot – it’s contagious.

What to do if you let fungus in

Without treatment, athlete’s foot can spread to your toenails and become quite difficult to get rid of. You can try over-the-counter creams designed to kill the fungus – they sometimes work. But if you’re having trouble evicting this unwanted tenant, make an appointment with Dr. Megan L. Oltmann and Dr. Craig B. Frey of Foot & Ankle Associates of Cleveland. We welcome residents of Cuyahoga, Summit, Portage, and Geauga Counties to our office in Solon, Ohio. Call us at (440) 903-1041 or contact us online.