Athlete's Foot (cont.)
IN THIS ARTICLE
Exams and Tests
If your symptoms look unusual or if a previous infection has not responded well to treatment, your doctor may collect a skin or nail sample by lightly scratching the skin with a blade or the edge of a microscope slide, or by trimming a nail. He or she will examine the skin and nail samples using laboratory tests including:
In rare cases, a skin biopsy will be done by removing a small piece of skin that will be looked at under a microscope.
For severe athlete's foot that doesn't improve, your doctor may prescribe oral antifungal medicine (pills). Oral antifungal pills are used only for severe cases because they are expensive and require periodic testing for dangerous side effects. Athlete's foot can return even after antifungal pill treatment.
Although your symptoms may decrease or stop shortly after you begin using antifungal medicine, it is important to complete the full course of medicine. This increases the chance that athlete's foot will not return. Reinfection is common, and athlete's foot needs to be fully treated each time symptoms develop.
Toe web infections
Toe web (interdigital) infections occur between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth toes. This is the most common type of athlete's foot infection.
Moccasin-type athlete's foot infection
Moccasin-type athlete's foot causes scaly, thickened skin on the sole and heel of the foot. Often the toenails become infected (onychomycosis). A moccasin-type infection is difficult to treat because the skin on the sole of the foot is very thick.
Vesicular infections, or blisters, usually appear on the foot instep but can also develop between the toes, on the sole of the foot, on the top of the foot, or on the heel. This type of fungal infection may be accompanied by a bacterial infection. This is the least common type of infection.
Treatment of vesicular infections may be done at your doctor's office or at home.
Even when treated, athlete's foot often returns. This is likely to happen if:
You can prevent athlete's foot by:
What to Think About
You may choose not to treat athlete's foot if your symptoms don't bother you and you have no health problems that increase your chance of severe foot infection, such as diabetes. But untreated athlete's foot that causes skin blisters or cracks can lead to severe bacterial infection. Also, if you don't treat athlete's foot, you can spread it to other people.
Severe infections that appear suddenly (acute) usually respond well to treatment. Long-lasting (chronic) infections can be more difficult to cure.
Toenail infections (onychomycosis) that can develop with athlete's foot tend to be more difficult to cure than fungal skin infections. For more information, see the topic Fungal Nail Infections.
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