Fighting Dry Skin & Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot) - Jeffrie C. Leibovitz, DPM

Fighting Dry Skin & Tinea Pedis (Athlete’s Foot)

Dry skin and tinea pedis (often referred to as athlete’s foot) can pair up with each other. But it’s not in any way that will be benefit your feet. We’re talking more about the way supervillains like to team up against Spider-Man. 

The fall and spring seasons are the times we will see these skin problems flare-up. There’s something about the changing of the weather that may trigger this combo attack. Yet, dryness and fungal infection are not limited only to these seasons. It can happen any time of year, especially to those of us who are more vulnerable.

So how does this one-two punch lead to peril for our skin……. and what can we do to fight them? Quick, to the Spider…mobile? 

We really should’ve used Batman for this analogy.

Dry Skin Breaks, Tinea Pedis Enters

The fungus that causes tinea pedis is pretty much everywhere. It’s Ubiquitous (the supervillain Uber driver).  Our skin is really a superhero at keeping the bad guys and riff-raff out.

Athlete’s foot only has the chance to become a problem when it has an opportunity to enter the skin. Dryness can provide the fungus with the opening it needs.

When skin becomes dry, it will form cracks. While the large and often painful cracks are obvious, tinea pedis doesn’t need a large opening to attack. Tiny micro-cracks that you might not even be aware of can be all the toe hold that fungus needs. Under 10x magnification, even normal skin looks like a desert floor. You don’t even want to look at your mattress under magnification.

Dead dry skin cells are an easy food source for the fungus. The fungus will have a party with the personal buffet you provide. Yeah, it’s gros

What came first, the chicken or the fungus?

Once the fungus has found its way into the skin, it is capable of spreading to the nails. This can result in a nail fungal infection (aka Onychomycosis). Once it reaches the nail it will be more stubborn to treat. And a chronic fungal infected nail can cause repeat skin infections. For some people, this can be a never-ending circle of problems

Who is More Vulnerable to Dry Skin and Cracking?

We have mentioned environmental and seasonal factors as common triggers for Athlete’s foot. There are other reasons, too.

Skin problems can be found among:

  • Teens. Oil production helps keep our skin from drying out. This is controlled through our metabolism. When the metabolism of teens fluctuates, oil production can greatly increase. The excessive oil provides a feeding frenzy for the micro bad guys. This happens to skin whether it is on the foot or face.
  • Older Folks. Metabolism naturally decreases over time. Less oil means the skin is a weak protective barrier. 
  • Those with Neuropathy. Our nerves send messages to our bodies when certain responses are needed. This is automatic and we have no conscious control. When we have neuropathy, such as diabetes, it can interfere with temperature and oil production in the feet. When there are decreased signals to the oil glands- no work gets done.
Athletes foot

Treating a Dry Skin and Tinea Pedis Combo

What happens when dry skin and fungal infection are both present? These problems must be addressed separately. We must get rid of tinea pedis as well as seal off the entry points created by dryness.

Treating Dryness

Our feet are good at producing their own moisture. The specialized skin contains a multitude of sweat glands. The problem often lies in the feet having a relatively low number of active oil glands. Oil locks that moisture next to the skin. Any drop in oil production can mean very little to no moisture next to the skin.

The best way of addressing this problem is to make up for what the body is unable to do: supplying the oil. 

Moisturizers can certainly help with dry skin. They can either keep the natural oils trapped against the skin or add oil to the skin. But if you aren’t producing any oils, you aren’t trapping anything.

Urea cream and shea butter are my 2 favorite choices that can help replace your natural oils.

Making Life Harder for Tinea Pedis

When a fungal infection is present, it will be treated with antifungal medications. However, it is also important to change the environment in and around the foot. This will make fungus less likely to hang around.

Tinea pedis, like other types of fungus, loves moisture, warmth, and dead skin. What better place to grow a fungus than a dark, moist, warm shoe or boot?  Think about how you grow a yogurt culture (a cousin to fungus). So let’s concentrate on the moisture.

This might feel like a bit of a tug of war. We need moisture to fight dryness, right? So is it fueling the fungus as well? The important matter here is to keep excess moisture from sitting on the skin. 

Shoe and sock choices can make a big difference if they wick moisture away from the skin. For socks, use materials that do a great job of moisture transfer from the skin. This will keep you warm in the cool season and cool in the hot seasons. Merino wool is one of the best you can find, but there are other synthetic materials. Cotton is unfortunately pretty much a sponge, holding moisture against the skin. Try to opt for shoes with breathable material when possible. Gore-Tex (trademark) like material is breathable and waterproof.

Also, be mindful of drying your feet completely after a shower. Make sure to get between the toes, where it’s very easy for moisture to accumulate and sit. This is especially a problem if you have rigid hammertoes.

Keep shoes dry by giving them at least 24 hours to air dry after you wear them. This is even more effective if you put them in front of an air vent/fan or use a boot dryer. Using a time-released anti-fungal shoe powder or spray will prevent a repeat appearance from the supervillains. It will not help if you put a clean foot into a sewer pit of a shoe.

Find the Answers to Dryness and Fungus

If dryness or tinea pedis are not going away, contact us for a professional evaluation. We are here for all your foot and ankle questions.

We can get to the root of what’s causing trouble and recommend the best routes for relief. In some cases, what might look like a fungal infection can be an imitator that looks the same. Other sources could be yeast, bacteria or a pesky dermatitis. We can also address those matters appropriately.

Schedule an appointment at our Indianapolis office by phone or by filling out our online contact form.