Athlete’s foot is used to describe any inflammatory skin condition affecting the bottom of the foot or the webbing between the toes. Symptoms most commonly experienced are itchy, scaly skin, sometimes raw lesions and sometimes blisters. It is generally a fungal infection and, while it gets its name because of its prevalence among athletes, it can and does affect anyone. Closed shoes, sneakers or workout shoes that are worn for long periods of time and/or frequently can encourage athlete’s foot, as the warm, moist environment of a shoe is favored by the fungi.
The fungi that cause the symptoms of athlete’s foot thrive in warm, wet areas. Any of these fungi are readily contagious by touch, so frequenting locker rooms, pool areas, and showers puts you at risk. Because of the variety of fungi that can cause the condition, and the range of symptoms that can develop, many people do not know the have a fungal infection. They may not have symptoms, or they may believe they just have dry skin.
Many people also are resistant to the infection and will never develop symptoms even when exposed to it. Others develop it simply by walking barefoot in an area where someone with an infection walked previously.
Those suffering from athlete’s foot complain of itching and stinging, cracks between toes, peeling skin and sometimes blistering. The condition can exist as a rash and can affect your hand as well as your feet. Over-the-counter antifungals can be effective in treating an infection, but it’s important to treat all areas, including toenails and fingernails, to avoid the infection recurring.
When foot odor goes beyond occasional, or occurs all year and not only during hot weather, it could be a symptom of a more serious problem. The fungi that causes athlete’s foot can cause foot odor, as well as other bacteria that grows in shoes that are consistently warm and moist. When this bacteria begins to attack the outer layer of skin on the feet, it can cause odor.
Micrococcus sedentarius bacteria is often found in sneakers. While it causes a serious odor problem, it is generally not a health concern and can be controlled by keeping feet clean, by changing socks frequently and by allowing shoes to dry between use.