Athlete's foot is an infection of the feet caused by fungus. The medical term is tinea pedis, or ringworm of the foot.
Tinea pedis; Fungal infection - feet; Tinea of the foot; Infection - fungal - feet; Ringworm - foot
Athlete's foot occurs when a certain fungus grows on the skin of your feet. The same fungus may also grow on other parts of the body. However, the feet are most commonly affected, especially between the toes.
Athlete's foot is the most common type of tinea infection. The fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. Your risk for getting athlete's foot increases if you:
Athlete's foot is easily spread. It can be passed through direct contact or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.
The most common symptom is cracked, flaking, peeling skin between the toes or on the side of the foot. Other symptoms can include:
If the fungus spreads to your nails, they can become discolored, thick, and even crumble.
Athlete's foot may occur at the same time as other fungal or yeast skin infections such as jock itch.
Exams and Tests
Your health care provider can diagnose athlete's foot simply by looking at your skin. If tests are needed, they may include:
Over-the-counter antifungal powders or creams can help control the infection:
If athlete's foot does not get better in 2 to 4 weeks with self-care, or frequently returns, see your provider. Your provider may prescribe:
Athlete's foot almost always responds well to self-care, although it may come back. Long-term medicine and preventive measures may be needed. The infection can spread to the toenails.
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider right away if:
Habif TP. Superficial fungal infections. In: Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 13.
Hay RJ. Dermatophytosis (ringworm) and other superficial mycoses. In: Bennett JE, Dolin R, Blaser MJ, eds. Mandell, Douglas, and Bennett's Principles and Practice of Infectious Diseases, Updated Edition. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 268.
Review Date: 5/2/2017
Reviewed By: David L. Swanson, MD, Vice Chair of Medical Dermatology, Associate Professor of Dermatology, Mayo Medical School, Scottsdale, AZ. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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