Athlete's Foot

  • Medical Author:
    Gary W. Cole, MD, FAAD

    Dr. Cole is board certified in dermatology. He obtained his BA degree in bacteriology, his MA degree in microbiology, and his MD at the University of California, Los Angeles. He trained in dermatology at the University of Oregon, where he completed his residency.

  • Medical Editor: William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Quick GuideFungal Infections: Fungus Among Us

Fungal Infections: Fungus Among Us

What is the treatment for athlete's foot?

The treatment of athlete's foot can be divided into two parts. The first, and most important part, is to make the correct diagnosis. Is it caused by a fungus, or is the rash produced by a noninfectious skin disease?

Occlusive shoe materials, such as vinyl, cause the feet to remain moist, providing an excellent area for the fungus to breed. Likewise, absorbent socks like cotton that wick water away from your feet may help.

Powders, especially medicated powders (such as with miconazole [Lotrimin] or tolnaftate [Tinactin]), can help keep your feet dry. Finally, your feet can be soaked in a drying solution of aluminum acetate (Burow's solution or Domeboro solution). A homemade remedy of dilute white vinegar soaks, using one part vinegar and roughly four parts water, once or twice a day as 10-minute foot soaks may aid in treatment.

The second part of treatment is the use of antifungal creams and washes. Many medications are available, including miconazole, econazole nitrate (Spectazole), clotrimazole (Lotrimin), terbinafine (Lamisil) sprays and creams, and ketoconazole shampoo and cream (Nizoral), etc. Ask your health-care professional or pharmacist for a recommendation. Treatment for athlete's foot should generally be continued for four weeks or at least one week after all of the skin symptoms have cleared.

More advanced or resistant cases of athlete's foot may require a course of an oral (pill) antifungal like terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), or fluconazole (Diflucan). Laboratory blood tests to make sure there is no liver disease may be required before taking these pills.

Topical corticosteroid creams are used to treat non-fungal athlete's foot but can act as a fertilizer for fungus and may actually encourage the spread of the infection. These topical steroid medications have no role in treating fungal foot infections.

If the fungal infection has spread to the toenails, the nails must also be treated to avoid reinfection of the feet. Often, the nails are initially ignored only to find the athlete's foot keeps recurring. It is important to treat all the visible fungus at the same time. Effective nail fungus treatment may be more intensive and require prolonged courses (three to four months) of oral antifungal medications. Continue Reading

Reviewed on 4/29/2016
References
REFERENCES:

Freedberg, Irwin M., et al. Fitzpatrick's Dermatology in General Medicine. 5th ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Professional, 1999.

Purim, Kátia Sheylla Malta, and Neiva Leite. "Sports-related dermatoses among road runners in Southern Brazil." An Bras Dermatol 89.4 (2014): 587-592.

Tlougan, B.E., Mancini, A.J., Mandell, J.A., Cohen, D.E., and Sanchez, M.R. "Skin conditions in figure skaters, ice-hockey players and speed skaters: part II - cold-induced, infectious and inflammatory dermatoses." Sports Med 41.11 Nov. 1, 2011: 967-984.

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