Health Tips from a Mother of Three

Dry, Itchy Feet? It May Be Athlete's Foot

If you have been suffering from extremely dry skin on your heels and the soles of your feet, it may not be just a bad case of xerosis, the medical term podiatrists use for dry skin.  According to the American College of Foot & Ankle Orthopedics & Medicine (ACFAOM), nearly 70 percent of people will suffer from tinea pedis, or athlete's foot, at some point in life. Here's what you need to know.

What Is The Difference Between Dry Skin And Athlete's Foot?

It isn't easy to tell, which is why a podiatrist should be consulted. A mild case of athlete's foot can look virtually identical to simple dry skin. This is particularly true if the toes aren't affected or there isn't a defined red area on the skin. Athlete's foot on the soles frequently presents as rough, thickened, flaky skin rather than red scaly areas, like that usually seen in the webbing between the toes. Athlete's foot is caused by several kinds of fungi, and the type of fungus it's caused by determines the location and symptom manifestations. The fungus can also spread to other areas of the body, such as the groin or armpits, as it is a skin infection.

What Other Symptoms Are Common In Athlete's Foot?

Itching can be a symptom, particularly if the affected area is the toes, but on other areas of the foot, peeling, blisters, and cracking are more prevalent. Cracking can be painful, making walking difficult sometimes. It also opens the skin to other fungi or bacteria, which can cause even more serious problems.

Should Moisturizer Be Used?

The usual home remedy for dry skin on the feet is to slather them in petroleum jelly each evening and then put a fresh pair of clean socks on. This way the feet will be thoroughly moisturized while you sleep. Unfortunately, this method creates the warm, moist conditions that fungi love. Foot care specialists recommend you instead start with an over-the-counter anti-fungal specifically made to treat athlete's foot. Even if you don't end up having the condition, the medicated ointment won't do your feet any harm. The medicated cream should be used twice as long as it takes for the symptoms to disappear as it can easily come back.

How Can Athlete's Foot Be Avoided?

It is imperative to wear flip flops or shower shoes in communal areas such as gyms, public pools, and saunas. Feet should be thoroughly dried after bathing and before putting on clean socks. Do not reuse your socks or wear the same athletic shoes daily.

Dry and cracked feet can also be symptoms of other underlying diseases like diabetes and nerve damage so be sure to consult with a podiatrist to get a definitive diagnosis. Prescription topical treatment or antibiotics may be necessary for severe cases.