Athlete’s foot is a common skin infection and nothing to worry about. Right?
Although most us think athlete’s foot is an easily treated infection, it has its darker side.
According to Dr. Warren Joseph, an expert in the field of infectious disease, tinea pedis or athlete’s foot almost always precedes the development of toenail fungus. While most people think of athlete’s foot as common, treatable, and not a problem, a toenail fungus infection can be much more serious.
It’s best to think of these infections as one and the same problem. They’re just called different things based on what part of the body they’re infecting. E.g. jock itch is also a fungal infection affecting the groin and inner thighs.
What Is Toenail Fungus?
If left untreated toenail fungus it is a progressive disease that can spread to other nails, to other parts of the body, and can be transmitted to family members. There is also a genetic predisposition to T. Rubrum (one of the most common yeasts/molds that cause athletes foot and fungal nails) in some families.
While most people think toenail fungus as just an unsightly discoloration of the toenails, toenail fungus can also:
- Cause your toenail to thicken, making them distort and difficult to cut
- Be quite painful
- Lead to limb-endangering complication in people with diabetes
- Keep coming back
Let’s learn a little bit more about Athlete’s foot.
What is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot or tinea pedis is a fungal infection of the skin that usually starts between the toes. Fungus loves warm, damp places and your athletic shoes provide just the right breeding ground.
Symptoms of athlete’s foot include skin that is:
It’s essential for people who are diabetic or immune compromised to get Athlete’s foot under control since it can lead to breakdown of the skin causing cellulitis and foot ulcers.
It’s easily spread through locker room floors and by using other people towels or nail implements.
What Does This Information Mean for People With Athlete’s Foot and Fungal Nails?
Treat your athlete’s foot when it occurs
Like toenail fungus, Athlete’s foot can recur and will need to be treated each time. Getting on top of treatment is essential to prevent it from invading your toenails and becoming a toenail fungus infection.
Get your toenail fungus treated as soon as you notice it
The longer you wait to get your toenail fungus treated the harder it is to get rid of. Our office in Seattle, Washington treats toenail fungus using a combination of:
- Laser treatment
- Topicals for the nails and the skin
- A short course of oral medication
- A UV light to sanitize your shoes
To learn more about our Comprehensive Treatment for Toenail Fungus.
Make sure your podiatrist also treats the skin around your nails
Ask your podiatrist if they treat the skin in addition to your nails. If your podiatrist only treats the nails, then there is a higher likelihood of reinfection from the surrounding skin because that’s where your Athlete’s foot infection lurks. At our podiatry clinic we use Tolcylen cream to treat the skin around your nails.
Treat your shoes
After treatment for fungal nails, keep up a maintenance routine. Disinfect your shoes with products like the Shoe Zap which is an ultraviolet shoe sanitizer.
Keep your feet dry
Keeping your feet as dry as possible will help prevent both of these infections from returning. If you’re an athlete make sure you let your shoes totally dry out between use. Alternating shoes if you use them everyday it a good option. Wear socks that wick away moisture from your feet. Avoid wearing cotton and wear synthetic socks instead.
Wear flip flops in shower and locker rooms
Since both of these infections are easily transmitted, always wear flip flops or other shower shoes when you’re at the gym or pool.
Don’t share nail implements and towels
To prevent infections don’t share nail implements and towels with other people.
Check your feet regularly
Check your feet regularly and contact your podiatrist at the first sign of infection.
When I talk to patients about toenail fungus I tell them it’s a chronic condition that needs maintenance just like your teeth. Brushing should be done daily to prevent bacteria from forming plaque and creating the acid that causes tooth decay. Likewise, being proactive about your foot maintenance will keep fungus from taking over.