Athlete's foot, also called tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the foot. It causes peeling, redness, itching, burning, and sometimes blisters and sores.
Athlete's foot is a very common infection. The fungus grows best in a warm, moist environment such as shoes, socks, swimming pools, locker rooms, and the floors of public showers. It is most common in the summer and in warm, humid climates. It occurs more often in people who wear tight shoes and who use community baths and pools.
What Causes Athlete's Foot?
Athlete's foot is caused by a microscopic fungus that lives on dead tissue of the hair, toenails, and outer skin layers. There are at least four kinds of fungus that can cause athlete's foot. The most common of these fungi is trichophyton rubrum.
What Are the Symptoms of Athlete's Foot?
Signs and symptoms of athlete's foot vary from person to person. However, common symptoms include:
Peeling, cracking, and scaling of the feet
Redness, blisters, or softening and breaking down of the skin
Itching, burning, or both
Types of Athlete's Foot
Interdigital: Also called toe web infection, this is the most common kind of athlete's foot. It usually occurs between the two smallest toes. This form of athlete's foot can cause itching, burning, and scaling and the infection can spread to the sole of the foot.
Moccasin: A moccasin-type infection of athlete's foot can begin with a minor irritation, dryness, itching, or scaly skin. As it develops, the skin may thicken and crack. This infection can involve the entire sole of the foot and extend onto the sides of the foot.
Vesicular: This is the least common kind of athlete's foot. The condition usually begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters under the skin. Most often, the blisters develop on the underside of the foot. However, they also can appear between the toes, on the heel, or on the top of the foot.
How Is Athlete's Foot Diagnosed?
Not all itchy, scaly feet have athlete's foot. The best way to diagnose the infection is to have your doctor scrape the skin and examine the scales under a microscope for evidence of fungus.
How Is Athlete's Foot Treated?
Athlete's foot is treated with topical antifungal medication (a drug placed directly on the skin) in most cases. Severe cases may require oral drugs (those taken by mouth). The feet must be kept clean and dry since the fungus thrives in moist environments.
How Is Athlete's Foot Prevented?
Steps to prevent athlete's foot include wearing shower sandals in public showering areas, wearing shoes that allow the feet to breathe, and daily washing of the feet with soap and water. Drying the feet thoroughly and using a quality foot powder can also help prevent athlete's foot.