Why does my athlete's foot keep coming back?

Athlete's foot requires treatment by a Houston podiatrist

One of the biggest issues with Athlete's foot is that it keeps coming back over and over again. There are two main reasons for this to be the case. We'll get to those in a minute. But first, we've got to explain this infection's cause. So let's take a closer look. 

What is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection. The fungus makes its way into your body through small cracks in your skin. And that's when the trouble starts.

Once it gets in, the fungus triggers responses from your body. Your feet become red and itchy. They may develop a funny odor, or even drainage.

Now, to treat athlete's foot, you have to get rid of the invading fungus. Not just from the surface of your skin, but from anywhere it's hiding. And, after stating that fact, I'm ready to get into the reasons why so many athlete's foot infections return. Even after you think you've got them treated.

Infections Return when You Stop Treatment Early

Lots of my patients use topical anti fungal medication to treat athlete's foot. That's not the worst decision: these creams can be effective. Especially if your infection is limited to small patches of skin, like on your heel.

But here's one problem. Most people who use topical anti fungal medication only use it until their symptoms clear up. So, when the such itching and burning skin feels better, they stop applying cream. And that's a problem. Because, even when your feet feel better, that fungus isn't completely gone. Which means, after you stop using that fungus-fighting medication, your symptoms will return.

At that point, you might think your athlete's foot came back. But the truth is, it never went away in the first place! Now, I know it's pretty difficult to continue a course of medication after the discomfort is gone. I get what you're thinking. 'It's all better if there's no pain or itching, right?'

To which I answer: 'It may be better, but it is not well!' As I just said, using an anti fungal medication for a short period of time will first help your symptoms. But, at the point symptoms disappear, the fungus could still be going strong. That's one reason why your podiatrist should prescribe your Athlete's foot medication. And provide you with detailed application instructions. Including when to start and stop your Athlete's foot treatment.

Typically, I tell patients to use prescribed anti fungal medications twice a day. For two full weeks, no matter when the itching feels better. But I might also give different instructions if I prescribe a different medication. Or if you come in with a severe infection. So you should never google your treatment instructions. Instead, use the creams you get at the podiatrist. For as many times a day, and as many days, as you're instructed. That's the only way to truly treat an Athlete's infection. To make sure that symptoms don't go away, only to come back.

Alternative Treatments for Chronic Athlete's Foot If athlete's foot keeps coming back, your podiatrist can figure out the cause and treatment

What if you used that topical cream as long as prescribed by your podiatrist? But your symptoms still came back? Don't worry, I have an answer for this problem, too.

You see, in some cases, using topical medication isn't enough to cure the fungal infection. Remember how I told you that fungus gets into your skin through cracks? And that's what causes your Athlete's foot infection?

Well, guess what? If that fungus just won't quit, you may need to use treatments that get beneath the skin. If, for example, you've got a moccasin-type Athlete's foot infection? (This is when the fungus thickens the skin on the sole and heel of your foot. And it often triggers a fungal toenail infection, too.) This and some other cases of Athlete's foot don't always respond to topical treatments. Which means we'll have to select other treatments. Or your funal infection will keep coming back.

One of those options include oral anti-fungal medications. Studies suggest that moccasin-type Athlete's foot responds better to these oral meds. But, of course, you can't pick up oral medications at the drug store. Which means, if your Athlete's foot keeps coming back? You'll have to get a prescription. So you'll have to see your podiatrist for that prescription.

Lasting Treatment for Athlete's Foot Infections

There you have it: the two main reasons your fungal infections keep returning.

  1. You stop using your medications too soon. So that the topical treatments don't have the chance to fully stamp out the fungal infection.
     
  2. You're choosing the wrong athlete's foot medication. Some skin conditions reflect problems beneath the skin. So your podiatrist may need to prescribe oral medication instead.

Now, these are the two most common reasons why athlete's foot keeps coming back. But they aren't the only ones. Which means, the only way to know why your infection keeps returning? You guessed it: it's to get checked out by your podiatrist!

Have tried everything out there to control your athlete's foot, but it keeps returning? Guess what: it's time to take control! Contact Houston podiatrist Dr. Andrew Schneider for a comprehensive evaluation.


 

Did you find this helpful? You also might wonder, Is Athlete's Foot Caused By Toenail Fungus?

 

Dr. Andrew Schneider
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A podiatrist and foot surgeon in Houston, TX.