Although many eczema sufferers usually experience flare-ups in most common areas, like on the front of their arms, behind their knees, and around the neck, foot eczema can also occur.
Foot eczema is most commonly confused with athlete’s foot; however, the two can be distinguished from each other.
Athlete’s foot appears between the toes and along the sides of the feet and heel. It is a fungal skin infection and is usually picked up in moist places like a communal shower floor or pool deck. It is also extremely contagious and only gets worse when feet are kept in warm, moist, enclosed spaces.
If you’re experiencing foot eczema, on the other hand, you’ll be surprised to know that there are several different types of foot eczema that exist. Remember that eczema is never contagious, unlike athlete’s foot.
Please keep in mind that although these tips have worked for many eczema sufferers, I am in no way a medical professional. If you’re experiencing severe eczema or have a topical fungal infection, it is always best to seek medical advice immediately.
What Is Athlete’s Foot?
Athlete’s foot is a common contagious fungal infection. It is estimated that 3% to 15% of the population struggles with athlete’s foot these days, and 70% of the population will develop the condition at some point in their lives.
While athlete’s foot mostly affects the skin between your toes, the infection can also spread to the bottoms and tops of your feet. If you have athlete’s foot, you may notice cracked and scaly skin on your feet, as well as blisters. What’s more, the irritated skin is itchy, it may appear red, purple, grey, or white, and your feet may smell badly too.
These fungal infections can affect everyone, however, it most commonly affects men and people over the age of 60. If you’re obese, have diabetes, or a weakened immune system, you are also more likely to develop athlete’s foot.
Chronic athlete’s foot requires proper treatment, which includes using antifungal creams, gels, and ointments. These products contain such substances as clotrimazole, miconazole, tolnaftate, and terbinafine. You can also treat your skin condition with prescription pills that have antifungal properties.
What Is Foot Eczema?
Eczema is an inflammatory skin condition that can lead to infection if not properly treated. It can occur on any part of your body, including your feet. Unlike athlete’s foot, eczema isn’t contagious, although its symptoms are very similar to the fungal infection.
Eczema may cause redness, itchiness, cracking, and dryness. The infected skin may also swell, thicken and turn white. In severe cases, the skin can develop sores, pus bumps, and blisters that weep and leak liquid.
This common skin condition often results from genetic and environmental factors. People who experience eczema have a dysfunctional skin barrier which causes the skin to be drier or more prone to irritation by allergens and fragrances.
Similarly to athlete’s foot, you can treat eczema with special creams and ointments that you can purchase over the counter. They may help you reduce redness and itching. If you struggle with eczema flare-ups, it’s crucial to avoid harsh soaps and to instead use delicate, non-irritating products. A healthcare professional may also prescribe topical steroids, antihistamines, or oral medication in the form of pills.
As eczema is an inflammatory condition, eating anti-inflammatory foods may help ease the flare-ups. Such products as fatty fish, fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are worth including in your diet if you’re experiencing eczema symptoms.
Types of Foot Eczema
There are several types of eczema that may affect your feet. They can be distinguished in terms of their symptoms. Among the most common types of foot eczema are:
This type of eczema is characterized by oval (coin-shaped) plaques on the feet and can be caused by stress, different climates, and occupational hazards.
These patches can last weeks or months and sometimes end up oozing or becoming flaky and dry.
Contact Foot Dermatitis
Another type of eczema that can appear on the feet is contact dermatitis. This type of eczema can appear swollen, red, and with blisters or cracked skin.
Most foot contact dermatitis is actually caused by certain allergens found in shoes and socks. Rubber box-toe shoes/boots are the most common cause of foot contact dermatitis due to a chemical known as rubber accelerators. Latex allergies are also a common trigger. Latex is commonly found in most elastic, so 100% cotton latex-free socks are a great option in these cases.
Also known as podopompholyx, this type of eczema is very commonly seen on the feet, especially among athletes.
It appears in painful blisters on the soles of the feet accompanied by intense itching. These blisters can grow into large growths on the soles of the feet that become painful.
Causes of Foot Eczema
Although general eczema causes were mentioned above, eczema on feet can also be caused by a variety of external and internal factors. These include changes in climate or allergens such as rubber accelerators, dust mites, and pollen.
To find out if pollen is causing your eczema, check out our post: How To Determine if Pollen Is Making Your Skin Flare-Up: The Eczema and Allergies Connection.
Foot Eczema Treatment
In order to properly treat athlete’s foot and eczema, it’s important to visit your doctor. Athlete’s foot infection and foot eczema are entirely separate conditions that require different treatments.
For foot eczema to heal properly, it needs to be kept properly aired out so that it is free from sweat. These Hypoallergenic Socks are the perfect eczema socks, as they’re made of 100% organic cotton and are latex-free and elastic-free, so they’re completely comfortable and non-irritating. We also love these adult socks for foot eczema from Remedywear™! Why are they great? The fabric is composed of cooling, soft TENCEL and antibacterial zinc for double the relief and comfort. They come in kids’ sizes too.
Dry or Wet Wrap Therapy
Both socks can also be used for wet wrap therapy, which will keep your skin hydrated and allow eczema to heal quicker. This type of treatment works by wearing one damp pair of eczema socks covered with a dry pair AND a natural cream or balm such as the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream or Emily Skin Soothers Super Dry Soother to heal eczema quickly and painlessly. Dry wrapping is much easier and less messy, and we like to recommend it as the first line of defense. Learn all about dry wrapping.
How to Prevent Athlete’s Foot and Eczema?
Implementing the following strategies into your routine may help you minimize the risk of getting athlete’s foot and eczema:
- Wash with a mild soap and dry your foot and nails completely.
- Dry your feet thoroughly after taking a shower or swimming.
- Moisturize your skin regularly (to minimize eczema flare-ups). Apply a honey based moisturizer like the Organic Manuka Skin Soothing Cream.
- Cover the foot with a breathable sock with beneficial properties like the Remedywear socks for adults that contain antimicrobial and anti inflammatory zinc and cooling, moisture wicking TENCEL. You’ll be glad to know they come in sizes for kids as well, since children often develop athlete’s foot.
- Wear flip-flops or slippers around public swimming pools and changing rooms.
- Avoid very tight-fitting shoes in synthetic materials.
- Drink plenty of water.
- Identify and avoid allergens and triggers.
The Bottom Line
Although foot eczema can be easily confused with athlete’s foot, there are several symptoms that are distinguishable, as mentioned. If you are experiencing ongoing symptoms or are in a lot of pain, make sure to visit your doctor as soon as possible so that you can receive the most accurate diagnosis and treatment.
Do you have foot eczema? Let us know how you treat it in the comments below!
Is athlete’s foot the same as foot eczema?
No, athlete’s foot and foot eczema are not the same. Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection of the skin, and it’s contagious. On the other hand, foot eczema is an inflamed skin condition that cannot be spread from one person to another.
Since the symptoms are similar, eczema can often be mistaken for an athlete’s foot. If you suspect you have either skin condition, it’s crucial to discuss your symptoms with a healthcare professional.
Can I use eczema cream on athlete’s foot?
It depends. As athlete’s foot is a fungal skin infection, medical eczema cream will not be effective in treating it. You may need an OTC or prescription antifungal cream or pills to treat athlete’s foot. However, we have seen natural honey based products and coconut oil work well for both foot eczema and athlete’s foot because they both feature antibacterial and antimicrobial properties.
What happens if eczema is left untreated?
As atopic eczema often causes your skin to crack, there’s a risk of the skin becoming infected with bacteria. Your condition may also get worse if you scratch your skin and do not use your treatments properly.
Bio: Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.
Laura is a contributor and content developer for It’s An Itchy Little World. She is in no way a medical professional. Her comments, suggestions, and reflections are not intended to replace any medical advice. Always seek the help of a medical professional before undertaking any diet or lifestyle changes. Please see It’s An Itchy Little World’s disclaimer for information about affiliate links and more.