Athlete's Foot - Treatment Overview
How you treat
athlete's foot (tinea pedis) depends on its type and
severity. Most cases of athlete's foot can be treated at home using an
antifungal medicine to kill the
fungus or slow its growth.
- Nonprescription antifungals usually are
used first. These include clotrimazole (Lotrimin), miconazole (Micatin),
terbinafine (Lamisil), and tolnaftate (Tinactin). Nonprescription
antifungals are applied to the skin (topical medicines).
- Prescription antifungals may be tried if nonprescription
medicines are not successful or if you have a severe infection. Some of these
topical antifungals, which are put directly on the
skin. Examples include butenafine (Mentax), clotrimazole, and naftifine (Naftin). Prescription antifungals can also
be taken as a pill, which are called
oral antifungals. Examples of oral antifungals include fluconazole (Diflucan), itraconazole (Sporanox), and terbinafine (Lamisil).
For severe athlete's foot that doesn't improve, your doctor
may prescribe oral antifungal medicine (pills). Oral antifungal pills are used
only for severe cases, because they are expensive and require periodic testing
side effects. Athlete's foot can return even after antifungal pill
Even if your symptoms improve or stop shortly
after you begin using antifungal medicine, it is important that you complete the full
course of medicine. This increases the chance that athlete's foot will not
return. Reinfection is common, and athlete's foot needs to be fully treated
each time symptoms develop.
Toe web infections
infections occur between the toes, especially between the fourth and fifth
toes. This is the most common type of athlete's foot infection.
- Treat mild to moderate toe web infections by
keeping your feet clean and dry and using nonprescription antifungal creams or
- If a severe infection develops, your doctor may prescribe
a combination of topical antifungal creams plus either oral or topical
athlete's foot causes scaly, thickened
skin on the sole and heel of the foot. Often the toenails become infected
(onychomycosis). A moccasin-type infection is difficult
to treat, because the skin on the sole of the foot is very thick.
- Nonprescription medicines may not penetrate
the thick skin of the sole well enough to cure moccasin-type athlete's foot. In
this case, a prescription topical antifungal medicine that penetrates the sole,
such as ketoconazole, may be used.
- Prescription oral antifungal
medicines are sometimes needed to cure moccasin-type athlete's foot.