Battling Athlete’s Foot: Understanding Tinea Pedis and Examining Various Treatments

Athlete’s foot is an annoying malady, to say the least. It can also become costly to treat. The cost of treating a bout of athlete’s foot can range from $9 to $85, according to Blue Cross Blue Shield of Tennessee. What you pay depends upon a myriad of factors, including the type of infection, the severity, the type of medication purchased, and where you buy it. Given the expense, it’s not surprising that many people would rather find an affordable home remedy for athlete’s foot than pay the pharmacist. Yet, you are probably wondering… are these treatments worth your time?

athlete's foot fungus

There are many different products that can treat athlete’s foot fungus infections.

Understanding the Cause of Ringworm, Jock Itch, & Athlete’s Foot

Don’t worry. There’s no worm living inside you. The term “ringworm” refers to the round, worm-like appearance of this affliction — but, really, it’s just a fungal infection caused by a type of fungus called a dermatophyte. Most people have dermatophytes from the soil or other animals living on their skin as part of their natural microflora, but the fungi may take an opportunity  for further spreading when there is an opening in the body, such as a cut, blister, ulcer, cracks in the heels, or a hangnail. Once the infection is inside the body, it may spread to other particularly moist environments, such as the feet (athlete’s foot) or the groin (jock itch). It is estimated that 10-20% of the population will develop this type of infection at some point in their lives, and that some people are more genetically predisposed to fall prey to dermatophytes than others.

trichophyton rubrum

A dermatophyte fungus called “Trichophyton Rubrum” causes athlete’s foot infections.
Image Source: CDC/Dr. Libero Ajello via Wikimedia.org

Choosing a Treatment for Athlete’s Foot Infections

There are two classes of drugs that treat athlete’s foot — azoles (clotrimazole, miconazole) and allylamines (terbinafine). These over-the-counter products can be purchased at your local pharmacy without a prescription and are generally quite effective when used as directed, along with practical steps to prevent re-infection.

According to USPharmacist.com

– Lotrimin AF Cream, Micatin Spray Liquid & Tinactin Cream are well-tolerated in any patient over 2 years of age. They must be used twice daily over a period of four weeks to produce a cure.

– Lotrimin Ultra Cream is another option, but only for adults 12 years of age and above. It can cure athlete’s foot in one week if used twice a day. However, it only cures athlete’s foot between the toes — not the “moccasin” type of athlete’s foot that spreads along the sides or across the bottom of the feet.

– Lamisil AT Cream can cure athlete’s foot in adults if used twice daily for 1-2 weeks. Unlike Lotrimin, this formula is effective against the moccasin type of athlete’s foot fungus, but it must be used for two weeks.

– Lamisil AT Gel is said to cure athlete’s foot in adults when used just once a day for one week. This is the only medication to treat athlete’s foot so quickly. You can use this treatment for moccasin type infections as well.

Do Home Remedies for Athlete’s Foot Work?

Dr. Koh Hong Yi, Associate Consultant of the Dermatology Unit at Singapore General Hospital, told Yahoo News that there have been reports of a chemical compound isolated from garlic being used as an antifungal agent and apple cider vinegar being applied to the skin. However, these home treatments can cause skin irritation. “As topical antifungal creams are readily available and are generally very well tolerated, it may be better for patients to use these rather than try home remedies,” Dr. Koh concludes.

home remedies for athlete's foot

Be careful with home remedies like vinegar, as this can cause irritation to open wounds, doctors caution.

One home remedy that will not hurt your skin is the SteriShoe ultraviolet shoe sanitizer. This product uses natural UV light to kill harmful fungi, bacteria, and pathogens with just one 45-minute treatment. It’s podiatrist-recommended and clinically proven to kill T. Rubrum, the microbe that causes athlete’s foot, ringworm, and jock itch. While you can’t use this product on your skin, it is effective at killing infectious spores harbored inside footwear. Since many people become re-infected by wearing old fungus-infested shoes, this home remedy for athlete’s foot is an important part of a comprehensive treatment. Try a UV sanitization device risk-free for 30 days!