How to Tell the Difference between Foot Eczema and Athlete’s Foot

You may not be concerned about your feet until you notice that there’s a problem. Many different conditions affect the feet, like eczema and athlete’s foot. But, these conditions have different symptoms and need to be treated differently. You can tell the difference because eczema causes inflammation and affects the skin.

The most significant difference between these two conditions is that athlete’s foot is a fungal infection. Eczema is an inflamed skin condition. It has nothing to do with fungus the way athlete’s foot does.

Because these conditions have different causes, different treatment is necessary to get rid of them. Another big difference is that you cannot cure foot eczema. It’s usually a lifelong condition that goes through outbreaks and flare-ups. You can learn to manage it and avoid things that trigger it.

Athlete’s foot can be cured with a few lifestyle changes and antifungal treatment options. So, knowing the difference will give you better insight into which type of treatment solution will work best and get rid of your symptoms.

Do I Have Eczema or Athlete’s Foot?

This guide will cover the symptoms of both eczema and athlete’s foot. Since eczema is a recurring condition, it’s necessary to know what triggers it for you. Eczema isn’t entirely preventable, but there are things you can do to lower your risk of triggering an outbreak.

Athlete’s foot isn’t always preventable either, but it isn’t a condition that necessarily comes back again and again. Most of the time, athlete’s foot is due to certain conditions or behaviors. But, there are ways to lower your risk as well, as well as treatment options that can clear up the problem altogether.

Once you know what you’re looking for in these foot conditions, you can take the right steps toward managing them. If not managed properly, they can cause pain, irritation, and lead to long-term adverse effects.

What Are the Symptoms of Foot Eczema?

Eczema is one of the most common skin conditions. When it occurs on the feet, it can be itchy, irritating, and painful. It can become so severe that for some people, it becomes difficult to walk. Eczema on the feet and hands is known as Dyshidrotic eczema (Pompholyx). It shows up as blisters on the feet and hands. But, there are more symptoms to look for that can make it clear that you have this condition.

Some of the most common symptoms of foot eczema include:

  • Redness
  • Flaking skin
  • Scaling and blisters that can crust over
  • Cracking skin
  • Swelling
  • Peeling

Eczema can appear in different stages if it goes untreated. In the beginning, it will show itself as small red blisters. These blisters can be fluid-filled, but may not be as painful as they are in later stages. The blisters may eventually burst open and ooze liquid or pus.

The oozing of this liquid can cause the blisters to crust over. That is when the condition can become extremely painful. Because eczema can sometimes look like other possible skin conditions, it’s best to get an official diagnosis from a dermatologist.

What Causes Foot Eczema?

Doctors and researchers have not discovered one underlying cause of eczema. Because of that, it isn’t a curable condition. Most people who have it experience flare-ups now and then.

These flare-ups can be triggered by different things, including:

  • High levels of stress
  • Working with water (moist feet)
  • Exposure to certain metals, like nickel, iron, and cobalt

Millions of people have eczema, and it can be triggered differently for everyone. Some people may experience outbreaks more frequently than others. Foot eczema isn’t contagious, so you don’t have to worry about catching it from other people or giving it to anyone.

Once you better understand your triggers, you can take precautions to avoid them. You may not be able to put a stop to the condition altogether. But, you can lessen your chances of an outbreak, and lower how severe it is.

Treatment for Foot Eczema

Again, there is no cure for Dyshidrotic eczema. But, it is a manageable condition. In most cases, mild cases will fade away within three weeks. Of course, you shouldn’t ignore the symptoms when they show up. If you do, the condition can get worse before it gets better, and may even get so severe that a prescription medication is needed.

Eczema can cause a lot of pain, irritation, and itching. Controlling and treating those symptoms can make the condition feel less overwhelming. So, how can you manage eczema?

Mild cases can usually be managed with over-the-counter treatment or home remedies. Antihistamines like Claritin or Benadryl are often used to help with the symptoms of foot eczema because they reduce inflammation. Once the inflammation is under control, the other symptoms may not seem so intense and painful.

Home remedies include everything from soaking your feet to using a healing moisturizer. Keeping your feet hydrated is essential when you have eczema. If they get dry, it can encourage the blisters to crack open and start to ooze. The best thing you can do to manage eczema at home is to strengthen your skin as much as possible. Not only will stronger skin not crack as easily, but it will make the symptoms feel less painful.

Dyshidrotic eczema isn’t preventable. But, by keeping your skin as healthy as possible, you can lessen how much it negatively affects your life.

How to determine a skin condition that affects the feet

Is Foot Eczema Serious?

Any type of skin condition on the feet can be problematic if it isn’t treated correctly. Even though eczema can’t be cured, it should be taken care of as much as possible. The most significant danger of Dyshidrotic eczema is what can happen if the blisters start to crack and ooze open.

Not only can the pain from this become severe, but it can put you at risk for other types of infection. When your skin cracks open, it’s easy for bacteria to get inside. This is especially true when it comes to your feet, even if you wear shoes and socks. So, keeping your skin healthy to prevent it from cracking due to eczema can help to ward off other harmful infections.

What Are the Symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

Rather than being on the bottom of the feet, it can usually be found on top of the feet or between the toes. It gets its name because it typically occurs on people who have sweaty feet, such as athletes. But, anyone can get the condition.

The primary symptom of athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a scaly rash. This rash often causes a lot of itchiness and discomfort, especially between the toes. The scaling and dryness of the foot can sometimes be confused with foot eczema, but it is caused by a fungus. There is a definite cause for athlete’s foot, while there isn’t for eczema.

The scaly rash of athlete’s foot (ringworm of the feet) can spread quickly. Any fungal infection that isn’t treated correctly can spread and grow. It is also contagious. If you’re experiencing a rash on your feet or toes, and it is incredibly itchy, you may be dealing with athlete’s foot. Another sure sign is if the itching intensifies right after you take off your shoes or socks.

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungal infection. The infection itself usually occurs when moisture gets trapped. It’s easy for athletes to get this condition because they sweat frequently. If their shoes or socks catch sweat inside, it creates the perfect environment for a fungal infection to form. Of course, there are specially designed socks for sweaty feet that can be helpful.

Anyone who has sweaty feet can get this condition. Shoes that don’t fit properly can also cause the problem. Again, anyone can get athlete’s foot, but some people are at a higher risk. Wearing tight-fitting shoes, for example, can be a risk factor. Walking barefoot in public places is also risky for this type of condition. Athlete’s foot is highly contagious. Don’t share things like bath mats with others.

Because it’s so contagious, you can give or get it from another person. It can also spread to other areas of your body, including your hands or nails. Athlete’s foot can lead to other fungal problems, such as ‘jock itch’ and ‘toenail fungus.’

How to Treat Athlete’s Foot

Unlike foot eczema, we know what causes athlete’s foot. Because of that, we know how to treat it, so it goes away.

Athlete’s foot isn’t a chronic condition. You don’t contract it once and have it for life. Can it keep coming back due to your circumstances and external factors? Yes. But, it isn’t something that will return for no reason if you treat it thoroughly (until it goes away).

Treatment for athlete’s foot involves an antifungal agent. This can be a cream, spray, or other topical solutions. For more severe cases of the condition, a prescription antifungal solution may be necessary.

When you’re treating a fungal infection, the most important thing to remember is that you should never stop treatment early. The fungus multiplies and can come back if it’s not gone completely.

Unfortunately, this may take some time, depending on how long you’ve let the infection go without treatment. This is why it’s important to recognize the symptoms early on. The early you start treating a fungal infection like athlete’s foot, the simpler it will be to clear it up completely. If you prefer to cure athlete’s foot naturally, you’ll likely prefer to use essential oils.

eczema vs. athlete's foot compared

Can Athlete’s Foot be Prevented?

Like foot eczema, athlete’s foot may not be able to be prevented all the time. Even with the right precautions, it’s still possible to contract the infection. But, there are many things you can do to lower your risk.

Let’s looks at some preventative steps that can reduce your chances of infection:

  1. Keep your feet dry. There’s a difference between keeping your feet moisturized and having healthy skin, and allowing them to be ‘wet.’ By keeping your feet and toes dry, you’re creating an environment that’s hard for a fungus to grow in. Fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. That’s why it grows between the toes. If your feet are often sweaty, dry them off frequently and let them air out as much as you can.
  2. Protect your feet in public. If you frequent public showers or swimming pools, wear flip-flops to keep your feet from touching surfaces. This will keep them dry and will protect you if anyone else has a fungal infection on their feet/toes.
  3. Change your socks regularly. It’s not a bad idea to bring a pair of socks with you to change into halfway through the day. This will prevent moisture from getting trapped for too long.
  4. Switch out your shoes. Don’t wear the same pair of shoes every single day. Instead, alternate them. When you wear a different pair of shoes each day, you’re giving your other pair a chance to air out fully. That makes it harder for a fungus to grow and thrive inside the shoe. You can also use the StinkBOSS shoe deodorizer to kill the fungus in footwear.

How to Tell if You Have Foot Eczema or Athlete’s Foot

We hope this guide has given you some clear indicators of both athlete’s foot and eczema of the foot. There are many different foot conditions. But, they aren’t all the same, and they need to be treated differently.

The longer you let either of these conditions go without treatment, the worse they will become. You don’t have to live with the pain, itching, or inflammation that can be a symptom of either! Even if there isn’t a cure, as with eczema, you can manage these symptoms successfully.

Once you’re able to determine which condition you have based on the symptoms, you can start a treatment solution that is proven to work. The signs of these foot problems can be the worst part and can make it difficult to live your life comfortably. Thankfully, there are many ways to soothe the symptoms of both.