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Why Does My Athlete's Foot Keep Coming Back?

Why Does My Athlete's Foot Keep Coming Back?

Athlete’s foot develops from a stubborn fungus and is challenging to get rid of on your own. It’s typical to use over-the-counter antifungal creams and find that your symptoms improve, only to return sometime later, leading to a frustrating cycle. 

At Hines Dermatology Associates in Attleboro, Massachusetts, Dr. Yvonne Hines helps patients manage even the most stubborn skin issues. When over-the-counter creams aren’t enough to eradicate the fungus that is causing your athlete’s foot, getting professional help is the next best step. 

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot

Athlete's foot typically starts between the toes. If you have athlete’s foot, you may notice:


These symptoms can spread to the soles of the feet and along the sides. In more severe cases, you may develop blisters. The affected areas can also become either excessively dry or very moist and soft. 

Athlete's foot may also cause a foul odor, and the infection can spread to the toenails and even other parts of the body if it’s left untreated.

Athlete foot fungus is resilient

Dermatophytes, which are fungi that thrive in warm, moist environments, cause athlete’s foot. This fungus is not only highly contagious but also remarkably resilient. It can survive on surfaces like floors, towels, and shoes for extended periods. 

Even after treatment, spores can remain dormant and later cause reinfection. This is why you may notice that your symptoms get better, only for the infection to return.

Public environments, such as around swimming pools and in gyms, are ideal breeding grounds for fungi. The fungus thrives in these damp areas and can easily infect and reinfect feet.

Incomplete treatment

Incomplete treatment is one of the primary reasons why athlete’s foot recurs. Fungal infections require consistent and often prolonged treatment. 

Many people mistakenly stop treatment when symptoms subside. However, to fully eradicate the fungus, treatment needs to continue for a specific time, typically well past when symptoms go away.

Re-exposure to infected areas

Because the fungus that causes athlete's foot can thrive on surfaces for an extended amount of time, reinfection is common. Walking barefoot in public areas, using communal showers without footwear, or even reusing contaminated socks and shoes can reintroduce the fungus to your feet.

Personal hygiene habits

Inadequate foot hygiene contributes significantly to recurrent athlete's foot. Keeping your feet dry and clean is essential. Moisture, such as sweat, creates an ideal environment for fungal growth. 

Changing socks regularly, especially if your feet sweat, and thoroughly drying your feet after bathing are crucial steps toward preventing reinfection.

Compromised immune system

Individuals who have weakened immune systems or certain chronic diseases like diabetes are more susceptible to recurring infections, including athlete's foot. These conditions can make it harder for the body to fight off the fungus.

Expert care for athlete’s foot

It’s crucial to have your condition evaluated to ensure the proper diagnosis. Dr. Hines can distinguish it from similar-looking skin problems such as eczema or psoriasis. Once you’re diagnosed with athlete’s foot, she creates a treatment plan to eradicate the fungus. 

Preventing recurrence 

Adopting a good foot care routine is key to preventing athlete's foot from coming back. This includes:

It’s also crucial to complete the entire course of any antifungal treatment, even after symptoms go away.

Don’t let athlete’s foot fester for an extended period. The longer the infection grows, the more difficult it is to get rid of. Take your next step with confidence and contact Hines Dermatology Associates today!


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