Athlete's foot is an infection of the feet caused by fungus. The medical term is tinea pedis. Athlete's foot may last for a short or long time and may come back after treatment.
Athlete's foot occurs when a certain fungus grows on your skin in your feet. In addition to the toes, it may also occur on the heels, palms, and between the fingers.
Athlete's foot is the most common type of tinea fungal infections. The fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. Your risk for getting athlete's foot increases if you:
Athlete's foot is contagious, and 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 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 skin infections such as ringworm or jock itch.
See also: Fungal nail infection
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. These generally contain miconazole, clotrimazole, or tolnaftate. Keep using the medicine for 1 - 2 weeks after the infection has cleared to prevent the infection from returning.
Athlete's foot almost always responds well to self-care, although it may come back.
If athlete's foot does not get better in 2-4 weeks with self-care, or frequently returns, see your health care provider. The health care provider may prescribe stronger antifungal medications, such as ketoconazole or terbinafine. Antibiotics may be necessary to treat bacterial infections that occur from scratching.
Athlete's foot infections range from mild to severe and may last a short or long time. They may persist or recur, but they generally respond well to treatment. Long-term medication and preventive measures may be needed.
Call your doctor right away if:
Also call your doctor if athlete's foot symptoms do not go away within 2- 4 weeks of self-care treatments.
To prevent athlete's foot, follow these measures:
Tinea pedis; Fungal infection - feet; Tinea of the foot; Infection - fungal - feet; Ringworm - foot
Habif TP, ed. Clinical Dermatology. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009.
Reviewed by: Kevin Berman, MD, PhD, Associate, Atlanta Center for Dermatologic Disease, Atlanta, GA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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