Everything you need to know about Athlete’s Foot and Ringworm

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Fungal infections come in many forms and levels of severity.  Two of the most common diagnoses are athlete’s foot and ringworm, both of which are part of the tinea family of fungal infections. Even though they are of the same family and grow in similar damp and warm conditions, the signs and symptoms of each disease is different.

Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)

Tinea Pedis or athlete’s foot is a very common and contagious member of the tinea family. This fungal infection attacks the feet and lives on dead tissue around the toenails, between the toes and overall surface of the skin. There are different types of athlete’s foot and each attack the feet differently.

The first and most common type is toe web infection, also known as InterDigital athlete’s foot. You may experience symptoms such as itching, burning, and foot odor when the infection first sets in. Moderate cases can cause skin to crack, peel and develop a scaly texture. In severe cases, a bacterial infection can develop which can lead to a skin infection of the ankle and lower leg. In many cases, toe web infections result in a blister (vesicular) infection; the onset is often sudden and without warning.

The second type of infection is moccasin-type infection. It usually begins with mild irritation such as dryness, itching, burning and a scaly skin texture. In some people, it begins with a scaly texture of the skin which can progress; when this happens the skin appears cracked on the heel and sometimes the soles of the feet.  In more severe cases, moccasin type infections can attack the toenails, causing them to thicken, crumble and possibly fall out. In the event that this type of tenia goes untreated it can spread to the palms of the hands. It is often chronic, and treatment is sometimes difficult.

The final type of athlete’s foot is vesicular infection and normally starts as a sudden rash of blisters that can become red and inflamed. It can affect the feet, ankles and hands. In many cases there is a bacterial infection present, usually caused by an untreated case of toe web infection.

Treatment of Athlete’s Foot

Treatment for athlete’s foot varies depending on the severity of the infection and its type. No matter which type you have, it is important to keep your feet clean and dry at all times to prevent further growth of fungi. In most mild cases, it can be treated with over the counter topical medication. In more severe cases oral medication may be required as well.

Preventative Care

As with most diseases, certain measures can be taken to prevent the onset of an attack. A few preventative measures include:

  • Wear protective footwear in public places such as locker rooms, public pools and showers
  • Wash your feet every day
  • Make sure your feet are thoroughly dry after you shower or swim
  • Only use footwear that will allow your feet to breathe
  • Clean your home shower on a regular basis to prevent the growth of bacteria on surfaces.
  • Change shoes daily.

Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)

Tinea corporis, better known as ringworm is an infection that attacks the skin. It is found in people of all ages and is highly contagious. It can be contracted from contaminated people, animals, surfaces or items.

In the event that you contract ringworm you may notice an itchy rash that appears as a red ring. However, there have been documented cases where it just appears as an itchy, red rash. If you suspect that you have ringworm, you should contact your dermatologist for a proper diagnosis. The dermatologist Dr. Rapaport at Cosmetic Skin can assist you in diagnosing and treating it.

Treatment of Ringworm

In most cases, ringworm can be cleared up with a simple over the counter cream. However, it can sometimes become persistent and needs to be treated with oral medications, as well as topical ointments or creams.

Preventative Care

There is no sure-fire way to prevent ringworm, but there are several preventative measures you can take to lessen the likelihood of an attack or recurrence of the fungus.

  • Thoroughly dry your body after showering or swimming, including your feet
  • Wear protective footwear in areas that are damp and warm such as public showers and locker rooms.
  • Use clean socks and underwear every day
  • Do not share towels, sheets, clothing, or other personal items with others who may be infected.

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