Is tinea causing that itching between your toes?
How can you effectively treat tinea?
Athlete’s foot (also known as tinea pedis) is a very common condition that will affect most people sometime during their life. Characterised by intense itching between the toes, and a red rash, this fungal infection can get out of control if you don’t seek treatment. We are highly experienced in treating athlete’s foot and see many cases in our podiatry clinic.
Find out more about athlete’s foot, including how you can prevent it, and how we can help treat it.
What is tinea pedis?
Tinea pedis is a common foot infection caused by fungi called dermatophytes, that live on the dead tissues of your skin, hair and nails. The infection usually begins between the toes but can spread to other parts of your feet, and your hands — especially if you scratch the affected area.
Why is it called athlete’s foot?
Tinea pedis is commonly called athlete’s foot because dermatophytes are especially common in warm, moist environments and therefore tend to affect people with damp or sweaty feet — like athletes. However, anyone can get this infection.
Signs and symptoms of athlete's foot?
Athlete’s foot has a number of signs and symptoms including:
What causes tinea on your feet?
Dermatophytes are fungi that usually live on the skin, hair and nails — the same fungi that cause ringworm and jock itch. When these environments get warm and moist, they grow out of control and cause the symptoms of athlete’s foot.
You can also catch the fungus through direct contact with an infected person, or by touching surfaces such as floors, showers or even towels that have been contaminated by an infectious person.
Who is at risk of developing athlete’s foot?
Anyone can develop athlete’s foot, but it’s more common in people who:
have damp or wet feet for long periods of time
often have sweaty feet.
share socks or towels with other people
wear tight, closed-in shoes
walk barefoot in communal areas where the infection can spread such as showers, locker rooms and swimming pools
Complications of athlete’s foot
If not effectively treated, athlete’s foot infection can spread to other parts of your body which include:
If the skin becomes cracked or split, it’s possible for bacteria to enter and cause a bacterial infection called cellulitis. However, this is more common in people with diabetes, weakened immune systems, and the elderly.
Treatment for tinea
Effectively treating tinea can take several weeks or even months, and the infection can return if the warm, moist conditions persist. Long-term treatment usually requires a change in how you look after your feet, and the footwear you choose.
The first line of treatment for tinea is usually an over-the-counter (OTC) antifungal preparation available through your pharmacy. These are usually in the form of powders, creams or sprays.
Avoid scratching, tearing or scraping off flaking skin as this can spread the infection further. You will also need to practice good hygiene during treatment. This means:
washing and drying your feet thoroughly (especially between the toes) every morning and evening
changing your socks or stockings daily
swapping your cotton or bamboo socks for moisture-wicking socks that will help keep your feet drier
avoiding wearing the same shoes day after day — give them a chance to air out
use an antifungal cream on your feet each day
giving your feet ‘air time’ by going barefoot or wearing thongs or sandals if possible.
In order to prevent the infection from recurring, continue treatment for up to two weeks after the infection has cleared.
Most people get a bout of athlete’s foot sometime during their life which clears up with home treatments. However, sometimes it can recur or not respond to OTC treatments. If this is the case, we recommend you come and see us. You should also make an appointment if:
Our friendly podiatrists can help diagnose your athlete’s foot, recommend the best treatment, and provide advice on how to prevent the infection from recurring. We can also provide assistance with the most stubborn of tinea infections, including nail infections.
How to prevent athlete’s foot
The key to preventing athlete’s foot is focusing on good hygiene. You should:
change your socks regularly, especially if they get sweaty playing sport
wear light, well-ventilated shoes as often as possible
choose socks that wick-away moisture.
avoid wearing the same shoes each day to give them time to dry out between wears
avoid going barefoot in communal showers, swimming pools or locker rooms
use an antifungal cream on your feet each day
avoid sharing shoes and socks
keep your feet dry, especially between your toes, by airing them out and thoroughly drying between them after bathing, showering or swimming
Frequently asked questions
Topical antifungal treatments for athlete’s foot have been deemed to pose a negligible risk to a breast-feeding baby. That said if it is a minor infection, we suggest that patients might use natural therapies such as daily apple cider vinegar soak, maintain dry feet and use alcohol wipes between toes after the shower.
Research is limited regarding use of topical antifungal medication during pregnancy. Treatment plans should be based on the severity of infection – your consulting Podiatrist might be able to suggest some home remedies that can clear the infection without need for medication.
Yes. There are a multitude of treatment options that can be matched to each person and the severity of infection. Ask your treating Podiatrist which treatments best suits your individual case.
Yes. Depending on the location, skin type, immune system and infecting organism Athlete’s Foot can cause blisters on the feet. During the consultation your Podiatrist can provide information on the management of these blisters and also the best treatment plan to resolve the underlying infection.
Fungal infection of the hands is called Tinea Manuum, it is far less common than Athlete’s foot. We suggest patient avoid touching their feet whilst suffering from Athlete’s foot to avoid cross infection.
Athlete’s Foot if untreated can become more severe and potentially spread. It is believed that chronic tinea can be a major cause of fungal toenail infections. It is best to commence treatment as soon as you notice signs or symptoms of infection.
The best way to treat Athlete’s foot is prevention. Keep your feet dry, change socks regularly if you suffer from sweaty feet, avoid walking barefoot in common areas like the public swimming pools or bathrooms. Treatment should be based on severity; when necessary natural treatments such as apple cider vinegar, tea tree oil, hydrogen peroxide, salt bath or potassium permanganate foot soaks can be used however these will not always be effective. It is recommended you speak to a Podiatrist prior to commencing any treatment.
Yes. Oral Lamisil is one of the most effective way of clearing fungal skin infection – it is however reserved for recurrent infections that do not resolve with traditional topical or photodynamic treatment options.
Yes. It is advised that members in the same household wear thongs in bathrooms or hard floors. Cross infection can also be reduced by keeping feet dry, changing socks regularly and regularly cleaning bathroom surfaces with bleach.
Yes. Fungal infections can occur at any age. Many topical antifungals are not recommended for use on children < 12 years old. Consult your Podiatrist for the best treatment options for infants and young children.
Yes. There is no issue with swimming however we don’t recommend you get the feet wet if the infection has caused splits or fissures. Breaks in the skin does increase risk of developing a bacterial infection. If swimming at public swimming pools we recommend you wear thongs to protect other patrons.
No. It is best to see your Podiatrist first and clear the athlete’s foot infection prior to resuming regular pedicures.
There are a number of over-the-counter topical treatments that can be purchased from your local pharmacy. For best results it is best to see a Podiatrist to confirm diagnosis and to tailor a treatment plan that best suits your needs.
For minor Athlete’s Foot infection you can try use of Apple cider vinegar at a ratio of 1 part apple cider vinegar :2 parts water. Soak for 15 minutes twice a day for 2 weeks.