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Athlete's foot

Definition

Athlete's foot is an infection of the feet caused by fungus. The medical term is tinea pedis, or ringworm of the foot.

Alternative Names

Tinea pedis; Fungal infection - feet; Tinea of the foot; Infection - fungal - feet; Ringworm - foot

Causes

Athlete's foot occurs when a certain fungus grows on the skin of your feet. The same fungus may also grow on the heels, palms, and between the fingers.

Athlete's foot is the most common type of tinea fungal infection. The fungus thrives in warm, moist areas. Your risk for getting athlete's foot increases if you:

Athlete's foot is easily spread. It can be passed through direct contact or contact with items such as shoes, stockings, and shower or pool surfaces.

Symptoms

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 jock itch.

Exams and Tests

Your health care provider can diagnose Athlete's foot simply by looking at your skin. If tests are needed, they may include:

Treatment

Over-the-counter antifungal powders or creams can help control the infection:

In addition:

If athlete's foot does not get better in 2 to 4 weeks with self-care, or frequently returns, see your health care provider. Your provider may prescribe:

Outlook (Prognosis)

Athlete's foot almost always responds well to self-care, although it may come back. Long-term medicine and preventive measures may be needed.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your doctor right away if:

References

Elewski BE, Hughey LC, Sobera JO, Hay R. Fungal diseases. In: Bolognia JL, Jorizzo JL, Schaffer JV, eds. Dermatology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 77.

Habif TP. Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa.: Elsevier Mosby; 2009:chap 13


Review Date: 5/15/2013
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.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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