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Someone may suspect they are dealing with athlete’s foot when their feet feel hot and itchy. Blisters, redness, and peeling skin are also signs that the feet are fighting-off infection. Skin breakdown is common and feet feel soft and tender. At its root, athlete’s foot is triggered by a fungal infection. The skin may react differently depending on the specific fungus or bacteria causing the infection. Based on symptoms, athlete’s foot can be labeled or classified into three groups as follows:
The most common type of athlete’s foot is called “toe web” infection. Toe web infection, like its name, is when the infection and symptoms occur primarily between the toes. The skin will be flakey, scaly, and itchy. Symptoms typically manifest between the last two toes, farthest from the big toe. Over time, the infection will spread to the other toes and throughout the foot.
With toe web infection, the skin of the feet will look very pale, almost white, and be soft to the touch. Some experience odor along with itch and burn. A mix of fungi and bacteria may be present, which makes skin breakage more likely. Without treatment, the symptoms of toe web infection become increasingly unbearable.
“Moccasin” type infection, starts with general soreness and burning on the feet. As the infection progresses, the skin becomes more dry, scaly, and thick. The skin will sometimes get so thick, it is difficult for average topical antifungal ointments to penetrate deep enough to deliver active ingredients throughout the dermis.
Cracked heels and crumbling toenails are common with this particular type of athlete’s foot. In severe cases, toenails will fall completely away from the toes. A toenail infection will need its own separate fungal treatment plan. Moccasin-type symptoms may also appear on one or both of the hands.
Consistent treatment is especially important with the moccasin-type infection, as this particular type of athlete’s foot is known to be difficult to clear. Moccasin-type infection carries a higher risk of returning, even after it has been treated. Help from a doctor or podiatrist may be required.
“Vesicular” athlete's foot is when fluid-filled blisters form on the foot. They are usually on the bridge of the foot, but may appear elsewhere. This type of athlete’s foot is the least common.
Vesicular infection may recur again after an initial infection. Other areas of the body like the arms, chest, or fingers are also susceptible to the spread of vesicular infection. In addition to the fungus, a bacterial infection may also be present.
Athlete’s foot symptoms can spread to other parts of the body, so hand-washing is extremely important when fungus is present. With effective treatment, the symptoms should clear anywhere from 1-10 days. If treatment is delayed or ineffective, athlete’s foot can linger and perpetuate for month or even years. Not all cases of athlete’s foot present the same symptoms, and a doctor can answer any questions regarding athlete’s foot. Avoid possible complications, and arrange a medical appointment if symptoms progress for a prolonged period of time.
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