What is Athlete’s foot

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that affects soft areas between the toes and sometimes other parts of the foot. It may lead to severe itching, flaking, scaling, burning, bleeding and stinging. (1, 2)

The condition is called Tenia pedis and is one of the commonest types of fungal infection.

This type of skin fungal infection is related to ringworm and jock itch.

It is sometimes referred to as the “ringworm of the foot”. It is caused by skin fungi called “trichophyton".

Is Athlete’s foot contagious?

Although the condition is very contagious, it can be treated effectively with antifungal medications.

It can spread in wet places like shower rooms and baths.

The fungi remain on the wet floors of the bathhouses until someone else comes into in with bare feet.

It may also spread through shared infected towels or shoes. It can affect the groin where it is called “jock’s itch”.

Risk factors for Athlete’s foot

Risk factors of getting athlete’s foot include (3):

  • Wet feet or sweaty feet over long time
  • Wearing closed shoes especially those that are plastic lined
  • Too much sweating
  • Minor skin or toe nail injury
  • Contact with contaminated surfaces at pools, showers or baths

Treating Athlete’s foot

Therapy with over-the-counter antifungals is effective and safe. These are applied twice or thrice daily locally.

If they are ineffective oral medication may be used.

Prevention includes keeping away from likely infected places and keeping shoes and socks dry.

Good foot hygiene and keeping it dry at all times also prevents this condition. Nails should be clipped regularly and kept clean.

Walking barefoot at public bathhouses and pools should be avoided. Wearing shoes and socks that allow the foot to sweat more (nylon for example) should also be avoided.

Use of talcum powder and zinc oxide based nappy-rash creams in people who sweat too much is also helpful.

Tenia pedia is often difficult to get rid of and keep away. It tends to recur. (2, 4)

Edited by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Athlete's foot Causes
Athlete's foot Symptoms
Athlete's foot Diagnosis
Athlete's foot Treatments

Last Updated: Jun 26, 2012

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