Athlete's Foot

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Athlete's foot facts

  • Athlete's foot is a common skin infection of the webs of the toes and soles of the feet.
  • When caused by a fungus, athlete's foot may spread to the palms, groin, and body.
  • Fungal infections of the feet are contagious and can be spread person to person or by walking on contaminated objects and floors.
  • Athlete's foot may cause foot itching, burning, pain, and scaling.
  • When athlete's foot is caused by a fungus, it can be treated with antifungal medications, many of which are available over the counter.
  • Keeping the feet dry by using cotton socks and breathable shoes can help prevent athlete's foot.

What is athlete's foot?

Athlete's foot is a very common skin condition that affects the sole of the foot and the skin between the toes. It is usually a scaly, red, itchy eruption and occasionally may be weepy and oozing. It affects the feet of athletes and nonathletes alike. Although it is frequently caused by a fungal infection, other causes may be indistinguishable without proper testing.

The medical name for athlete's foot caused by a fungus is tinea pedis. There are a variety of fungi that cause athlete's foot, and these can be contracted in many locations, including gyms, locker rooms, swimming pools, nail salons, and from contaminated socks and clothing. The fungi can also be spread directly from person to person by contact. Most people acquire fungus on the feet from walking barefoot in areas where someone else with athlete's foot has walked. Some people are simply more prone to this condition while others seem relatively resistant to it. Another colorful name for this condition is "jungle rot," often used by members of the armed services serving in tropical climates.

Without the proper environment (warmth and moisture), the fungus may not easily infect the skin. Up to 70% of the population may develop athlete's foot at some time. An infection by athlete's foot fungi does not confer any resistance to subsequent infections.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 12/19/2013

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Learn how to prevent athlete's foot.

How to Prevent Athlete's Foot

The fungus that causes athlete's foot can be found on floors and clothing, and the organisms require a warm, dark, and humid environment in order to grow. The infection spreads by direct contact with contaminated surfaces or objects. As the infection spreads, it may affect the soles of the feet or the toenails.


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