Dr. Vincent Giacalone
Podiatric Medicine & Surgery
466 Hook Rd., Suite 24D, Emerson, NJ 07630
Athlete’s foot is a skin infection caused by a fungus, usually occurring on the sole of the foot and between the toes. The fungus most commonly occurs on the feet because shoes create a warm, dark, and humid environment which encourages fungus growth. The warmth and dampness of areas around swimming pools, showers, and locker rooms, are also breeding grounds for fungus. Because the infection was common among athletes who used these facilities frequently, the term athlete’s foot became popular. This condition can cause a great deal of discomfort, itching and cracking of the skin and can affect an individual’s quality of life. Not all fungus conditions are athlete’s foot. Other conditions, such as disturbances of sweating, reaction to dyes or adhesives in shoes, eczema, and psoriasis may mimic athlete’s foot.
What does athlete’s foot look like?
- The skin involved may be red, swollen and contain sticky fluid.
- The skin may also appear white and macerated (wet, especially between the toes)
- The skin may appear dry and scaly and is often mistaken for simple dry skin
What are the symptoms of athlete’s foot?
The signs of athlete’s foot, alone or combined, are dry skin, itching scaling, inflammation, and small blisters. Blisters often lead to cracking of the skin. When blisters break, small raw areas are exposed, causing pain and swelling. Itching and burning may increase as the infection spreads. Athlete’s foot may spread to the soles of the feet and to the toenails. It can be spread to other parts of the body, notably the groin and underarms, by those who scratch the infection and then touch themselves elsewhere. The organisms causing athlete’s foot may persist for long periods. Consequently, the infection may be spread by contaminated bed sheets or clothing to other parts of the body.
- The affected area may be peeling and have small blisters.
- It may also appear red, dry and itchy.
- If untreated, there may be cracks in the skin which can lead to a secondary bacterial infection.
- It may contain sticky clear fluid.
- Patients often report a burning or stinging sensation
What are the causes of athlete’s foot?
- Many people have the fungus present on their skin but do not develop athletes foot.
- Conditions such as bruising or cracks in the skin allow entry for the fungus.
- Fungus thrive in moist, warm environments such as between toes.
- It may also spread between individuals.
- Common places are bathrooms, showers, swimming pools and changing rooms.
- Not changing socks regularly can also encourage the build up of fungus between the toes.
- People with excessively sweaty feet are more prone to this condition.
Can athlete’s foot be prevented?
It is not easy to prevent athlete’s foot because it is usually contracted in dressing rooms, showers, hotel rooms, changing areas, gyms, ballet studios, karate class, locker rooms, etc. where bare feet come in contact with the fungus. However, you can do much to prevent the infection by practicing good foot hygiene. Daily washing of the feet with soap and water; drying carefully, especially between the toes; and changing shoes and socks daily, avoid nylon socks/stockings to decrease moisture helps to prevent the fungus from infecting the feet. Also helpful is daily use of a quality moisture absorbing foot powder, such as corn starch.
How can you treat athlete’s foot?
- Treat the condition immediately!
- Anti-fungal powders can be used in the socks and shoes.
- Over-the-counter creams and sprays can also be used.
- Diabetic patients should not try and treat this condition themselves.
- Wear cotton or moisture wicking socks to absorb moisture.
- Dry your feet thoroughly after bathing especially in between the toes.
- Treat excessively sweaty feet.
- Change socks daily.
- Avoid walking barefoot; use shower shoes.
- Reduce perspiration by using talcum powder or corn starch.
- Wear light and airy shoes.
- Change socks frequently if you perspire heavily.
What is the Medical Treatment?
Over the counter creams used for athlete’s foot treatment, frequently fail to cure the fungus in the skin layers. Prescription topical or oral antifungal drugs are prescribed with growing frequency. In mild cases of the infection it is important to keep the feet dry by dusting foot powder in shoes and socks. The feet should be washed frequently and all areas, especially between the toes dried thoroughly.
When should I see Dr. Giacalone?
If an apparent fungus condition does not respond to proper foot hygiene and self care, and there is no improvement within two weeks, consult Dr. Giacalone. He will determine if a fungus is the cause of the problem. If it is, a specific treatment plan, including the prescription antifungal medication, applied topically or taken by mouth, will usually be suggested. Such a treatment appears to provide better resolution of the problem, when the patient observes the course of treatment prescribed. If the infection is caused or complicated by bacteria, antibiotics against a broad spectrum of bacteria may be prescribed.
Dr. Giacalone has been trained specifically and extensively in the diagnosis and medical and surgical treatment of foot disorders. Dr. Giacalone has been board certified by The American Board of Podiatric Orthopedics and The American Board of Podiatric Surgery since 1993 and is a Fellow of the American College of Foot and Ankle Surgeons. Dr. Giacalone performs surgery at Hackensack University Medical Center (HUMC) in Hackensack, HUMC@ PascackValley and Surgicare Surgical Center in Oradell.