Athlete's foot is highly contagious! By direct contact or contact with other items like stockings, shoes, pools, showers and any public areas with hard surfaces and standing water. Hygiene, therefore, plays a key role in controlling an athlete's foot infection. Since fungi thrive in warm, moist environments, keeping feet and footwear as dry as possible, and avoiding sharing towels, etc., aids prevention of primary infection.
Athlete's foot can usually be diagnosed by your podiatrists visual inspection of the feet, but where the diagnosis is unsure direct microscopy of a potassium hydroxide preparation (known as a KOH test) may help rule out other possible causes, such as eczema or psoriasis. A KOH preparation is performed on skin samples from the affected area. The KOH preparation has almost 100% positive predictive value, but once in awhile false negative results may be obtained, especially if treatment with an anti-fungal medication has already started.
The fungal infection may be healed with topical anti-fungal agents, which can take the form of a spray, powder, cream, or gel. There exists an enormous number of prescription anti-fungal drugs, from several different drug families.
Anti-itch creams are not recommended, as they will relieve the symptoms, but will increase the fungus; this is because anti-itch creams typically enhance the moisture content of the skin and encourage fungal growth. For the same reason, some drug manufacturers are using a gel instead of a cream for application of topical drugs.
The recovery time for cure may be extensive, often 45 days or longer. The advised course of treatment is to use the topical treatment for four weeks after the symptoms have ended to ensure the fungus has been completely destroyed. However, because the itching associated with the infection lessens quickly, patients may not complete the regimen of therapy prescribed.
If the above diagnoses are inconclusive or if a treatment course has already been started, a biopsy of the affected skin (i.e. a piece of the living skin tissue) can be taken for examination.