Your doctor may be able to diagnose athlete's foot simply by looking at it. Some types of athletes foot look like dry skin or dermatitis. To help confirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions, your doctor might take a skin scraping from the affected area for testing in a lab.
If your athlete's foot doesn't respond to nonprescription products and self-care, you may need to see a doctor to get a prescription-strength cream or ointment, such as clotrimazole (Lotrisone), econazole (Ecoza, Spectazole) or ciclopirox (Loprox, Penlac). If you have a more serious infection, your doctor might prescribe antifungal pills, such as terbinafine (Lamisil) or itraconazole (Sporanox, Tolsura). Or you might need both topical and oral medicine.
Lifestyle and home remedies
These tips can help you ease the symptoms of athlete's foot or avoid a recurrence:
- Keep your feet clean and dry. Wash your feet twice a day and gently towel-dry between the toes.
- Use an antifungal product. After washing and drying your feet, apply an antifungal product. The antifungal terbinafine (Lamisil AT) has been shown to be very effective. Another option is clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF). You may need to experiment to find the product and formulation — ointment, gel, cream, lotion, powder or spray — that work for you. Apply the product to the affected skin as directed — usually twice a day until a week after the rash clears up. It might take 2 to 4 weeks to see results. If the condition comes back, you might need to start applying the product again.
- Change socks regularly. Change your socks at least once a day — more often if your feet get really sweaty.
- Wear light, well-ventilated footwear. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber. Wear sandals when possible to let your feet air out.
- Alternate pairs of shoes. Use different shoes from day to day. This gives your shoes time to dry after each use.
- Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms.
- Try not to scratch the rash. You can try soothing your itchy feet by soaking them in cool water.
- Don't share shoes. Sharing risks spreading a fungal infection.
Preparing for your appointment
Your primary care doctor or a skin specialist (dermatologist) can diagnose athlete's foot. You don't need any special preparations for an appointment to diagnose athlete's foot.
What you can do
Before your appointment, you might want to write down a list of questions to ask your doctor. Examples include:
- What's the most likely cause of my symptoms?
- Are tests needed to confirm the diagnosis?
- What treatments are available?
- Is this condition temporary or long lasting?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Can I wait to see if the condition goes away on its own?
- What can I do to prevent the infection from spreading?
- What skin care routines do you recommend while the condition heals?
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did you first notice your symptoms?
- What did the rash look like when it first started?
- Is the rash painful or itchy?
- Does anything seem to make it better?
- What, if anything, makes it worse?
- Does a family member also have athlete's foot?
- Have you spent time at swimming pools, locker rooms, saunas or other places where athlete's foot might be spread?
April 27, 2022
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- Thompson DA. Athlete's foot. In: Adult Telephone Protocols. 4th ed. American Academy of Pediatrics; 2019.
- High WA, et al., eds. Special considerations in skin of color. In: Dermatology Secrets. 6th ed. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 8, 2021.
- Ferri FF. Tinea pedis. In: Ferri's Clinical Advisor 2021. Elsevier; 2021. https://www.clinicalkey.com. Accessed June 8, 2021.
- Newman CC, et al. Clinical pearls in dermatology 2017. Disease-a-Month 2017; doi.org/10.1016/j.disamonth.2017.03.003.
- Crawford F, et al. Topical treatments for fungal infections of the skin and nails of the foot. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2016; doi.10.1002/14651858.CD001434.pub2.
- Bell-Syer EM, et al. Oral treatments for fungal infections of the skin of the foot. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2015; doi.10.1002/14651858.CD003584.pub2.
- Office of Patient Education. Fungal infection: Athlete's foot. Mayo Clinic; 2010.
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