When you have a bacterial infection, typically a doctor will prescribe antibiotics. When you have athlete's foot, people don't always seek care. It may be that you feel the condition will resolve on their own, but it may also be because they don't recognize athlete's foot as the infection that it is.
When one's feet sweat excessively, they wear particular shoes, or work in an environment where their shoes and feet become wet often - feet and shoes become a great place for fungus to grow. When the fungal colonies have populated to a certain point, they can get into skin and nails and cause an infection. Athlete's foot is a fungal infection, but the condition (when left untreated) doesn't stop there.
Athlete's foot typically presents as scaling of the feet, redness and sometimes blistering. This can also be very common between toes where the skin can become very wet and turn white. If athlete's foot is left untreated, breaks in the skin can develop and this predisposes a person to a secondary bacterial infection. The spaces between the toes are a particularly dangerous area for fungal infections to get out of control - as bacterial infections spread quickly from this area and can infect the rest of the foot and even the leg - a condition called cellulitis. Cellulitis can become so severe as to require hospitalization.
On a less urgent note, chronic athlete's foot predisposes people to acquiring a fungal infection in the toenails (a condition called onychomycosis). Unlike the the skin which turns over completely within 2 weeks, toenails grow very slowly. This means that fungal infections in the nail are very difficult to manage and may never be completely treated.
If you think you have athlete's foot or if nothing over the counter that you may have tried has improved your condition, make an appointment with one of PPFAC's doctors and we can help get your feet back to optimal health!