The fungus that causes athlete's foot is everywhere in the environment. It is commonly picked up from the floors of showers, locker rooms, and exercise facilities. The fungus is more likely to grow on sweaty, constantly damp, or improperly dried feet (especially in shoes or socks with poor ventilation).
Your healthcare provider can usually diagnose athlete's foot by examining your skin. Sometimes he or she may swab or scrape off a skin sample to test for fungus. If your provider suspects that you may also have a bacterial infection, the skin sample may be tested for bacteria.
Athlete's foot can often be treated successfully with a nonprescription antifungal medicine such as Micatin, Tinactin, Lotrimin, or Desenex. These medicines are creams, liquids, or powders that you put on the skin of your foot. If the infection is severe or widespread, your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine to take by mouth.
Some people have mild athlete's foot infections just once in a while. These infections usually clear up in a few days. More serious infections may take 1 to 2 weeks. Other people have infections often or nearly constantly for weeks, months, or years. If you have frequent or prolonged problems, see your healthcare provider. Your healthcare provider may prescribe medicine that not only treats the ongoing itch and discomfort but also helps prevent a more serious bacterial infection.
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