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How is athlete's foot treated?

Hillary B. Brenner, DPM
Podiatric Medicine

Athlete's foot is an infection of the skin caused by fungus. The foot is the most common part of the body to get athletes foot because shoes and socks create warmth and dampness which encourages fungus to grow. Athletes foot can be treated by rotating your shoes (don't wear the same shoes everyday i.e. allowing shoes to dry), soak your feet in Epsom salt for 10-15 min. 2-3 times a week (this will decrease moisture in the foot), wear cotton socks (which will wick sweat from the feet), use the steri-shoe (a device that is placed into the shoes every day and uses UV light to kill viruses, bacteria and fungus), spray shoes with deodorant and twice a day apply anti-fungal to the feet preferably in the gel form (the cream anti-fungals add too much moisture). After two weeks if you don't see an improvement it is best to visit with your local podiatrist. The doctor will take a culture and narrow down which organism is causing the infection. A prescription for an oral or topical anti-fungal can be prescribed, a chemical peel can be performed which will cause the skin to peel where all the fungus live and leaving you with fresh healthy skin. It is important that the topical anti-fungal be used for up to two months. If the infection is caused by bacteria antibiotics can be prescribed. Overall, the best way to treat and prevent athlete’s foot is to keep your feet dry. 

    Christopher Chiodo, MD
    Orthopedic Surgery
    If you develop athlete's foot, you have numerous treatment options. If the infection is mild (scaly white patches of skin or fissures, but no redness or itching), pay special attention to foot hygiene. Wash your feet regularly and dry them thoroughly, especially between the toes. Apply an antifungal cream to the affected area, and dust your socks and shoes with antifungal powder. Many effective remedies are available over the counter; look for products that contain clotrimazole, econazole, ketoconazole, miconazole, naftifine, oxiconazole, sulconazole, terbinafine, or terconazole. Brand names include Lamisil AT, Lotrimin, Micatin, and Tinactin. All are effective, but everyone differs in his or her response to particular ingredients, so if one doesn't work for you, try another. Follow the instructions that come with the medication.

    Consult a foot care specialist if you see no improvement after two weeks of using over-the-counter remedies, if the infection is severe (the skin is red, itchy, peeling, or blistered), or if you have diabetes or some other circulatory problem. Your foot care specialist may prescribe a topical or oral medication to treat your athlete's foot. Even these will take several weeks to work. Athlete's foot can recur in some people, so even after it resolves, be sure to be vigilant about the preventive measures discussed above, and reapply medication at the first sign of recurrence. Oral medications, usually reserved for people with recurrent infections or infections that don't respond to topical treatment, include griseofulvin, itraconazole, and terbinafine.
    There are many options for treating your athlete's foot.  First, keep the feet as clean and dry as possible; try to wash and dry them thoroughly at least twice a day, use clean socks, and change shoes as necessary. Often, the  first product people try is topical antifungal medicine, which may include active ingredients like miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate. These can be  purchased without a prescription at drug stores. Topical antifungal  medications are applied directly to the affected area. They come in  several forms, including powders, sprays, creams, and lotions.

    If over-the-counter medications don't solve the problem, see your  doctor. You doctor may recommend prescribe a stronger topical antifungal  medicine. Another option they might try is oral antifungal medication, such as itraconazole.

    Generally topical antifungal creams. gels, or solutions will suffice for the treatment of athlete's foot. In more severe cases, a short course of oral antifungals may be necessary. It is important to keep in mind that this is a chronic condition, and intermittent treatment may be needed. Chronic use of an antifungal powder may be helpful.

    Lisa Marie Rosati
    Herbal Medicine

    Being an Herbalist, I always try and treat ailments naturally first. Here is my suggestion for treating Athlete's Foot:

    Tea Tree Oil

    Tea Tree Oil has been shown to clear up even the nastiest cases of Athlete's Foot in 64 percent of people according to the Australasian Journal of Dermatology.

    Long used by the Australian Aborigines as an antiseptic for cut and wounds, Tea Tree Oil contains the potent Anti-Fungal agents:

    • terpinen 4-ol
    • and cineole

    Tea Tree Oil is extracted from the leaves of Melaleuca alternifolia plant.

    When looking for Tea Tree Oil to purchase, opt for a product that contains 100 percent Tea Tree Oil. Typically it is recommended to apply the Tea Tree Oil twice a day. If you have sensitive skin, I recommend that you dilute in equal amounts the Tea Tree Oil with a carrier oil such as Almond or Jojoba Oil, and apply once daily. If your skin becomes irritated in any way discontinue applying the Oil immediately and see your Physician.

    Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
    Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
    If athlete's foot is not treated in a timely fashion, bacteria can develop in the skin. Learn more about how to treat athlete's foot in this video by Dr. Oz.


    Athlete's foot is easily treated. To avoid developing athlete's foot in the first place, do not go barefoot in public areas. Swimming pools, locker rooms, and saunas are havens for germs. Wear rubber sandals in wet places and dry your feet thoroughly – especially between the toes – after you shower. An over-the-counter anti-fungal cream is effective in treatment of athlete's foot, however, if it does not get better, consult your dermatologist.

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    Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.