Athlete's foot is an infection of the feet caused by fungus or yeast. 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 or yeast grows on the skin of your feet. The same fungus may also grow on the heels, palms, and between the fingers.
Athlete's foot is the most common type of tinea infection. The fungus or yeast 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 health care 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:
Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Sobera JO, Hay R. Fungal diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 77.
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. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 268.
Review Date: 4/14/2015
Reviewed By: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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