Stay Comfortable, Avoid Athlete's Foot!

Along with ringworm and jock itch, athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection. The three conditions are sometimes called tinea and athlete’s foot is more formally known as tinea pedis. Athlete’s foot typically develops between the toes or on the soles of the feet. It can also sometimes affect the toenails and spread to other parts of the body like the groin, underarms, or palms of the hands if the patient touches that part of the body after touching the infected foot. Athlete’s foot got its name because it affects people like athletes who often have sweaty and wet feet. Despite the name, it doesn’t affect just athletes. Athlete’s foot affects both sexes, and people can develop it at any age.

What is Athlete’s Foot?

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection caused by dermatophytes, which are fungi that live on the skin, nails, and hair. Dermatophytes live in moist and warm places – like feet enclosed in shoes.

The symptoms of athlete’s foot include the following:

  • Itching
  • Redness
  • Stinging
  • Burning sensation
  • Dry skin on the sides or soles of the feet

The skin of the affected area may also peel, flake, crack, or blister. The patient may also develop thick, crumbly and/or discolored toenails that might eventually pull away from the nail bed. In severe cases, the patient can develop reddened sores that smell bad and leak fluid.

In many cases, the patient can use a home remedy or over-the-counter (OTC) medication to treat their athlete’s foot. If the infection doesn’t improve after several weeks of treatment, though, it’s time to call the doctor. Other signs that the patient needs to go to the doctor include the following:

  • The patient has developed sores that leak fluid
  • The patient has diabetes
  • The patient’s toenails look infected
  • The infection has spread to another part of the body, like the groin or hands

Causes of Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is most commonly caused by a group of fungi called dermatophytes. On rare occasions, it can be caused by a fungus that isn’t a dermatophyte. For example, athlete’s foot is sometimes caused by a yeast infection.

Athlete’s foot is contagious, and people can contract it by contact with the fungus or with skin particles from infected people on floors or towels. People with impaired immune systems or diabetes have a greater chance of developing athlete’s foot, especially if they have already have a sore or cut on their foot.

Certain behaviors can increase the risk of contracting athlete’s foot, like wearing damp socks and/or shoes that are too tight. Walking barefoot in public places like swimming pools, locker rooms, or saunas also increase the risk of contracting athlete’s foot simply because there’s a good chance that an infected person might have used the facilities. Similarly, sharing items like shoes, clothes, or towels with an infected person increases the chances of developing athlete’s foot.

Treatment and Prevention of Athlete’s Foot

A doctor can usually diagnose athlete’s foot simply by visually examining the affected foot. They can also take a skin sample to determine if the fungus is present.

If the patient has a mild case of athlete’s foot, they can use over the counter medicinal options. More severe or recurrent cases will need a doctor’s attention. They may recommend prescription-strength versions of the OTC drugs. They may also prescribe oral drugs. The doctor may use topical creams to reduce inflammation and pain. If the patient has developed bacterial infections caused by blisters, the doctor may prescribe antibiotics that are taken by mouth.

Since dermatophytes grow in warm and moist places, the simplest way to prevent athlete’s foot is to keep the feet, especially the places between the toes, dry and clean. For example, people using public showers, like those in gyms, should wear flip-flops or waterproof shoes.

It’s also a prudent idea to not wear the same pair of shoes two days running. Switching shoes will prevent moisture and fungi from accumulating.

Medical Disclaimer: The information presented on are for general informational purposes only, the writer may not necessarily have medical or scientific training. This information is not reviewed by a physician. Some of these articles may contain information about treatments or the use of a pharmaceutical product that has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. does not endorse any specific product, service or treatment. Results on any service or treatment may vary from person-to-person.

This article should not be considered as medical advice. Do not delay or disregard seeking professional advice from a certified doctor or other qualified healthcare provider. Always speak with a doctor before starting, stopping, or changing any prescribed care or treatment plan. provides this reading material as a helpful resource, but it should never be a substitute for professional medical advice, care, diagnosis or treatment from a medical physician, a certified personal trainer, a therapist, a dietitian, or a nutritionist. If in a medical emergency, call a doctor or dial 911 immediately.