Last reviewed by Dr. Raj MD on January 12th, 2022.
What is Tinea pedis?
This medical condition is a fungal skin infection that is most commonly called athlete’s foot. Tinea pedis means ringworm of the foot but the fungal skin infection can spread to other areas of your body like your groin area. If it spreads to other areas of your body the terminology of the medical condition will change.
For example, if it spreads to your groin area it would be referred to as tinea cruris. It is considered a dermatophyte infection and can affect the skin between your toes or on the soles of your feet. Tinea pedis can happen to anyone regardless of age, race, or gender but it is seen more in young males who are athletic and people who live in warmer climates. Approximately seventy percent will have at least one episode of tinea pedis at some point in their life.
Tinea pedis Symptoms
In most people when then have tinea pedis they will see the symptoms between their toes on the webbed skin. The infection in some people can spread to their toenails causing them to appear a cloudy yellow and be unusually thick.
Some of the symptoms a person may have with tinea pedis include:
- Flaking or scaly skin.
- Itching that can be intense.
- Pink or red rash on your foot.
- Burning sensation
- The skin between your toes can split.
- Around the rash the skin may swell.
In a severe case of tinea pedis the skin could crack and blister leading to swelling, pain, and at times a secondary bacterial infection.
Tinea pedis Causes
Tinea pedis can be caused by a variety of parasites that like to live in moist environments such as public showers, bath houses, and changing rooms at the pool. You can find it both outdoors and indoors in any moist environment or any area that people walk in their bare feet. Once the fungi contaminate the skin on your foot and you put on socks and shoes, this moist environment will encourage the fungi to grow.
These fungi that live in these moist environments can be spread from person to person. It is considered a communicable disease. A person can get tinea pedis by walking in the areas that a person with this disease has walked, by touching an infected towel, or touching the feet or toes of a person who has tinea pedis.
How to prevent Tinea pedis?
The main way to prevent this medical condition is to practice good hygiene. You should also have some type of shoes that you can wear when taking a shower in an area that others frequent like a locker room, a pool shower, etc. You want to make sure that your feet do not come in contact with the wet floor. In the home make sure that you clean the bathroom and shower tiles with a good disinfectant after showering or bathing. You may not have any symptoms of tinea pedis but you could be bringing the fungi home.
If you have this infection you should wash your towels, socks, sheets, and wash cloths in hot water separately from others. If you have tinea pedis or have been treated for this medical condition you need to make sure that you wash your feet thoroughly every day and put on a pair of clean socks afterwards. When washing your feet make sure that you dry between each toe. You should also wear cotton socks because they absorb sweat the best.
If you think you have tinea pedis you can either try over-the-counter treatments or see your physician for a prescription. Your physician will ask you about your symptoms and if you have been in any areas such as a public shower, locker room, pool area, etc. The physician will then look at your feet. They can usually tell if you have tinea pedis just by looking at them. In order to confirm the diagnosis of tinea pedis they can scrape some flakes of your skin onto a microscopic slide and look at it under a microscope.
Tinea Pedis Treatment
When treating tinea pedis do not expect it to be cured overnight because it can take weeks to even months for it to respond to the treatment. The infection can easily return even after you have treated it. This is especially true if you are exposed to the fungi that cause tinea pedis. This is why many people will have tinea pedis that keeps returning for a long time.
In addition to treating the condition you also need to remember to take care of your feet. You may have to change what you wear on your feet such as shoes that are not tight and lighter weight sock. You will also have to remember to wear some type of shower in public showers, around the pool, etc.
When treating tinea pedis you can use an over-the-counter antifungal medication such as:
Some of these are powders while others are creams. You should apply the creams three times a day. You should also not get an anti-itch cream to help relieve the itching because this type of cream could cause the infection to get worse. If you cannot get rid of the infection or find any ease in the symptoms with over-the-counter antifungal medications you should see your physician for a prescription antifungal medication. If you have any type of feet problems or a diabetic you should see your physician right away because these types of people are more prone to get skin infections.
In addition to over-the-counter antifungal medications you can also use some of these home remedies to help stop the growth of the fungus.
- Tea tree oil – this is said to have great fungicidal properties so apply it daily to help decrease how severe the symptoms will be.
- Epsom salts – soak your feet in Epsom salts and water as hot as you can stand for at least ten minutes two or three times a day.
- Apple cider vinegar – again this is something else you can use in water to soak your feet.