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Skin Problems & Treatments Health Center

Athlete's Foot - Symptoms

Athlete's foot (tinea pedis) symptoms vary from person to person. Although some people have severe discomfort, others have few or no symptoms. Common symptoms include:

  • Peeling, cracking, and scaling of the feet.
  • Redness, blisters, or softening and breaking down (maceration) of the skin.
  • Itching, burning, or both.

Toe web infection

Toe web infection camera.gif (interdigital) is the most common type of athlete's foot. It usually occurs between the two smallest toes. This type of infection:

  • Often begins with skin that seems soft and moist and pale white.
  • May cause itching, burning, and a slight odor.
  • May get worse. The skin between the toes becomes scaly, peels, and cracks. If the infection becomes severe, a bacterial infection is usually present, which causes further skin breakdown and a foul odor.

Moccasin-type infection

A moccasin-type infectioncamera.gif is a long-lasting (chronic) infection. This type of infection:

  • May begin with minor irritation, dryness, itching, burning, or scaly skin.
  • Progresses to thickened, scaling, cracked, and peeling skin on the sole or heel. In severe cases, the toenails become infected and can thicken, crumble, and even fall out. For more information, see the topic Fungal Nail Infections.
  • May appear on the palm of the hand (symptoms commonly affect one hand and both feet).

Vesicular infection

A vesicular infectioncamera.gif is the least common type of infection. This type:

  • Usually begins with a sudden outbreak of fluid-filled blisters under the skin. The blisters most often develop on the skin of the instep but may also develop between the toes, on the heel, or on the sole or top of the foot.
  • Sometimes occurs again after the first infection. Infections may occur in the same area or in another area such as the arms, chest, or fingers. You may have scaly skin between eruptions.
  • May also be accompanied by a bacterial infection.

Athlete's foot is sometimes confused with pitted keratolysis. In this health problem, the skin looks like a "moist honeycomb." It most often occurs where the foot carries weight, such as on the heel and the ball of the foot. Symptoms include feet that are very sweaty and smell bad.


WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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