athlete's foot (tinea pedis) develops and how well it
responds to treatment depends on the type of athlete's foot you have.
Toe web infection (interdigital)
Toe web infections
(interdigital) often begin with skin that seems moist and
pale white. You may notice itching, burning, and a slight odor. As the
infection gets worse, the skin between the toes becomes scaly, peels, and
cracks. If the fungal infection becomes severe, a bacterial infection also may
develop. This can cause further skin breakdown. The bacterial infection may
also infect the lower leg (cellulitis of the lower leg). Toe web infections
often result in a sudden vesicular (blister) infection.
infections respond well to treatment.
may begin with minor irritation, dryness, itching, burning, or scaly skin and
progress to thickened, cracked skin on the sole or heel. In severe cases, the
toenails become infected and can thicken, crumble, and even fall out. If you do
not take preventive measures, this infection often returns. You may also
develop an infection on the palm of the hand (symptoms commonly affect one hand
and both feet).
Moccasin-type infections may be long-lasting
(chronic) and are very hard to treat.
(blisters) usually begin with a sudden outbreak of blisters that become red and
inflamed. Blisters sometimes erupt again after the first infection. A
bacterial infection may also be present. A vesicular infection often develops
from a long-lasting toe web infection. Blisters may also appear on palms, the
side of the fingers, and other areas (dermatophytid or id reaction).
Vesicular infections usually respond well to treatment.
If untreated, skin blisters and
cracks caused by athlete's foot can lead to severe bacterial infections. In
some types of athlete's foot, the toenails may be infected. For more
information, see the topic
Fungal Nail Infections.
All types of athlete's foot can be treated, but
symptoms often return after treatment. Athlete's foot is most likely to return
- You don't take preventive measures and are
again exposed to fungi that cause athlete's foot.
- You don't use
antifungal medicine for the prescribed length of time and the fungi are not
- The fungi are not completely killed even after
the full course of medicine.
Severe infections that appear suddenly, and keep returning,
can lead to long-lasting infection.