Athlete’s foot, also commonly referred to as tinea pedis, is a fungal infection of the foot that develops commonly on the soles of the feet and in between the toes. Athlete's foot usually produces itchy, dry, scaling skin. In more severe cases, inflammation, cracks, and blisters may form. Athletes commonly suffer from sweaty feet and use the facilities where the fungus is found, thus the term "athlete's foot."
Athlete’s foot is caused by a group of mold-like fungi called dermatophytes that feed on dead skin and nails. Athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections, including ringworm and jock itch. These microscopic organisms live in dark, warm, and moist environments. Damp socks and the insides of shoes provide a welcoming environment for fungal growth and infection.
If left untreated, athlete’s foot can result in blister and cracking of the skin leaving you susceptible to a secondary bacterial infection. An allergic response to athlete’s foot may also develop. After an episode of athlete’s foot, proteins may enter your bloodstream, leading to an allergic response also called an “id reaction,” that may result in blistering of your fingers or toes. Onychomycosis, a fungal infection of the nail may also develop with or without symptoms of athlete’s foot.
Athlete’s foot is contagious and can be spread by contact with an infected person or contact with contaminated surfaces. You should avoid walking barefoot in public places such as communal bathing facilities and pools, as warm and moist environments harbor fungal organisms. Wash your feet every day with soap and water and dry them thoroughly. Keep your feet as dry as possible and change your socks frequently if your feet sweat excessively.
In its early stages, cases of athlete’s foot can be treated with over-the-counter medicated powders, creams, sprays, or lotions that are specifically formulated to fight the athlete’s foot fungus. In moderate cases, a prescription topical medication may be required. In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe an oral anti-fungal medication.