Dermatophytes 101

Whether you know it or not, you’ve probably seen or even had a dermatophyte infection at some point. Many people recognize them as fungal infections like athlete’s foot.

Our compassionate team at Wiregrass Podiatry can identify different dermatophytes species and recommend the best treatment. With convenient locations in Dothan and Enterprise, Alabama, our top priority is helping you avoid the discomfort of a fungal infection and stop it from spreading.

What are dermatophytes?

Dermatophytes are fungi that feed on keratin. Because of the high amounts of keratin in your hair, skin, and nails, dermatophytes often create infections in these areas. While not all fungal infections result from dermatophytes, they often play a role in every type of foot fungal infection, from moccasin infections to fungal nails.

You can get dermatophytosis from direct contact with other people or animals. You can even get it from infected soil. Fomites can also spread dermatophytes through indirect exposure to inanimate objects that carry them from one host to the next.

With over 40 species of dermatophytes, each one affects people differently. However, most infections are restricted to hair, nails, and superficial skin.

What problems do dermatophytes cause?

Dermatophytes can cause stubborn fungal infections, especially if you don’t treat them promptly. You will most often see problems typical of foot fungus, including symptoms like:

  • Discolored nails
  • Brittle nails
  • Unusual nail shape
  • Thick nails
  • Itchiness and irritation
  • Redness of the infected area
  • Thick, scaly skin

At Wiregrass Podiatry, Dr. Jennifer Decker and our highly skilled specialists differentiate between dermatophytes species to understand which one caused your infection. Not all treatments work for every type of infection, so you should rely on a healthcare professional to help you find the most effective treatment for your dermatophytosis.

How do you diagnose dermatophytes?

A podiatrist can usually identify dermatophytes with a visual examination. However, when you require a more complete diagnosis, your doctor may use one of these methods:

Wood’s lamp examination

A Wood’s lamp examination involves shining a UV light on the infected area to illuminate the fungus. This diagnostic method doesn’t work for many dermatophyte infections. Still, it can help determine the kind of dermatophyte and give further information on treating it.

Fungal culture

A fungal culture confirms the type of fungus infecting your skin or nails, especially if your doctor believes you should use oral drugs.


If the dermatophytes don’t respond to other treatments, your doctor may take a biopsy to further study the dermatophytes.

How do you treat dermatophytes?

The treatment you use for dermatophytes depends on the species and severity of the problem. Most of the time, your podiatrist will start with topical antifungal therapies, including medicated nail polish, creams, and foot powders. You may also need oral medications for more severe cases.

We can also help you prevent dermatophyte infections by:

  • Treating your shoes with antifungal remedies
  • Wearing foot protection in public showers
  • Wearing well-ventilated shoes, especially in humid weather
  • Changing your socks when they get wet

Don’t delay. Schedule an appointment right away if you see signs of a dermatophyte infection, so it doesn’t worsen or spread to other areas of your body.

Call Dr. Decker at our Enterprise, Alabama office to examine your condition and make treatment recommendations, so you don’t have to deal with itchiness, pain, or toenail thickness and discoloration. You can also contact us on our website to request an appointment. 

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