Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that develops on the feet, usually between the toes. Most cases of athlete’s foot can be treated at home with over-the-counter antifungal medication. However, fungal infections are stubborn and often recur over time. To completely eliminate athlete’s foot, it is necessary to change the environment that is allowing the fungus to grow, and eliminate the infection with antifungal medication.
Reasons for treatment
Fungal infections are difficult to treat. They can often persist for years and then abruptly disappear. When athlete’s foot develops, the initial symptoms are itching, burning, redness, and stinging. If left untreated, skin can blister and crack, leading to serious and debilitating skin infections.
Though fungal infections can be treated at home, it is important to see a physician if skin does not clear up within a few weeks. Excessive redness, swelling, fever, and drainage can be a sign that a bacterial infection is also occurring. People with diabetes and medical conditions that compromise the immune system should seek treatment immediately for athlete’s foot.
How athlete’s foot treatment is administered
The treatment of athlete’s foot depends on the type of fungal infection and the severity of the infection. The best results are obtained with early treatment before the fungus has taken hold.
Treatment usually begins at home with over-the-counter antifungal medications. Antifungal medications may come in cream, spray, or powder form. These products should be applied to the affected area twice daily for a minimum of four weeks. Improvement is usually gradual.
It is also important to keep the infected area clean and dry. Fungus thrives in dark, moist environments. The moisture that develops in shoes and socks combined with the lack of sunlight to the feet provides an ideal environment for fungal growth. The best remedies are to: use medicated powders to keep feet dry, soak feet in a drying solution, change socks periodically throughout the day, and wear open toed shoes or shoes that breathe.
When topical medications fail to eliminate athlete’s foot, doctors may recommend prescription antifungal medications. Some prescription antifungal treatments are topical creams; others can be taken in pill form. Athlete’s foot symptoms may disappear shortly after the antifungal medication takes effect, but it is important to continue with the full course of treatment. Recurrence of fungal infection is common, and each time symptoms appear they should be fully treated.