The Facts on Athlete's Foot:

What Is Athlete's Foot?

Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is a common skin infection caused by fungal organisms that grow on the feet, typically between the toes. The foot fungus thrives in warm, moist environments and spreads through direct contact with an infected person or by touching surfaces contaminated with the fungus.

image of itchy feet

Signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot include a scaly rash that usually causes itchy feet, stinging and burning. Itching is often worst after taking off your shoes and socks. Some types of athlete’s foot produce blisters, bumps, or ulcers.

Other infections may cause chronic dryness and scaling that spread up the side and top of the foot. This can sometimes be mistaken for eczema or dry skin. The infection can affect one or both feet and can spread to your hands, particularly if you scratch the infected areas of your feet. If athlete’s foot spreads to your toenails, they can become thickened, discolored, and painful.

What Causes Athlete's Foot?

Athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections, such as ringworm and jock itch. It is contagious and can be spread on contaminated floors, towels or clothing. Athlete’s foot becomes more common with age.

Athlete’s foot fungi are commonly found in:

  • Showers
  • Locker room floors
  • Around swimming pools.
  • Damp socks and shoes from sweaty feet, and warm, humid conditions encourage the growth of the fungus on your feet that causes athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot can often be effectively treated and/or prevented with over-the-counter antifungal sprays and powders.

Prescription medications may be required, particularly if the infection hasn’t cleared after the specified period of self-treatment with over-the-counter products. If you have diabetes, and suspect you have athlete’s foot, you should see your doctor, especially if you notice signs of a bacterial infection, such as excessive redness, swelling, drainage or fever.

image of feet by the pool

How to Help Prevent Athlete's Foot?

Steps you can take to help prevent athlete’s foot:

  • Avoid wearing damp socks or tight-fitting shoes
  • Wash your feet every day with soap and water, always dry thoroughly between your toes and leave your feet exposed to the open air to cool.
  • Don’t share mats, rugs, bed linens, clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection.
  • Don’t walk barefoot in places where infection can spread. Wear shower shoes or sandals in public places such as locker rooms, swimming pools, community baths and showers.
  • Rotate your shoes so that you don’t wear the same pair two days in a row. It also helps to wear open-toed shoes in warm weather to let your feet “breathe”.
  • Change your socks often to keep your feet dry. If your feet sweat a lot, this may mean changing them a few times throughout the day.
  • Wear socks made of fabric that wicks moisture away from your skin, like acrylic, wool, or polypropylene.

How to Treat Athlete's Foot?

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