Athlete’s foot, also called tinea pedis, is a fungal infection that typically starts in the areas between the toes. It is often seen in people who have sweaty feet that are kept in tight fitting shoes and is caused by the same fungus that causes ringworm and jock itch. The condition is contagious and can be spread by making contact with an infected person, using an infected towel, or by walking on an infected surface. The infection can spread from the feet to the hands or groin.
Athlete’s foot usually starts with a scaly red rash in between the toes. The affected area will usually itch at night when socks and shoes are removed. The skin on the affected foot will become dry and can often be mistaken for eczema. Some forms of athlete’s foot can cause blisters on the skin. Risk factors for athletes foot include gender (men get it more often than women), wearing tight shoes, sharing clothes or shoes with someone with a fungal infection, walking barefoot in public areas, and having a weak immune system.
Your doctor can usually diagnose athlete’s foot by looking at the affected area. Evaluating a small sample from the infected area may be needed to confirm the diagnosis. Most cases of athlete’s foot can be treated with over-the-counter anti-fungal sprays, creams, powders and lotions. If the infection does not respond to the over-the-counter treatments, your doctor may prescribe a stronger option. Some cases require anti-fungal pills that are taken by mouth. If you have been diagnosed with athlete’s foot, talk to your doctor to discuss the treatment option that is best for you.