Patient Education

Athlete’s Foot Infection

athletes footAthlete’s foot infection is a rash on the skin of the foot. It is the most common fungal skin infection. Athlete’s foot is caused by a fungus that grows on or in the top layer of skin. Fungi grow best in warm, wet places, such as the area between the toes. Athlete’s foot spreads easily. Most often, people get it by walking barefoot on contaminated surfaces near swimming pools or in locker rooms. The fungi then grow in your shoes, especially if your shoes are so confining and not breathable.

Athlete’s foot can make your feet and the skin between your toes burn and itch. And you may not have these symptoms at all. The skin may peel and crack. Your symptoms can depend on the severity of the infection.

Athlete’s Foot Types

There are three main types of athlete’s foot. Each type affects different parts of the foot and may look different.

  • Athlete's FootToe web infection usually occurs between the fourth and fifth toes. The skin becomes scaly, peels, and cracks. Some people also may have an infection with bacteria. This can make the skin break down even more.
  • Vesicular infection usually begins with a sudden outbreak of large fluid-filled blisters under the skin. The blisters are usually on the top of the foot. But they can appear anywhere on your foot. You also can get a bacterial infection with this type of athlete’s foot.
  • Moccasin-type infection may start with a little soreness in your foot. Then the skin on the bottom or heel of your foot can become thick and crack. In bad cases, the toenails get infected and can thicken, crumble, and even fall out. Fungal infection in toenails needs separate treatment.

Treatments

Most of the time, a doctor can tell that you have athlete’s foot by looking at your feet. He or she will also ask about your symptoms and any past fungal infections you may have had. If your athlete’s foot looks unusual, or if the treatment did not help you before, your doctor may take a skin or nail sample to test for fungi.

Not all skin problems on the foot are athlete’s foot. If you think you have athlete’s foot but have never had it before, it’s a good idea to have your doctor look at it.

You can treat most cases of athlete’s foot at home with over-the-counter lotion, cream, or spray. In bad cases, your doctor may give you a prescription for pills or for medicine you put on your skin. Use the medicine for as long as your doctor tells you to. This will help make sure that you get rid of the infection. You also need to keep your feet clean and dry. Fungi need wet, warm places to grow.

You can do some things so you don’t get athlete’s foot again. Wear shower sandals in shared areas like locker rooms, and use anti-perspirant spray to help keep your feet dry. Wear breathable shoes that are made of materials to allow moisture to escape.