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Athlete's Foot : Causes Symptoms and Treatment

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Published: 2009-04-14 - Updated: 2020-04-21
Author: Disabled World | Contact:
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Library of Related Papers: Skin Conditions Publications

Synopsis: Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus which grows on top of or in a layer of skin in a person's foot. Athlete's foot fungi grow best in warm and wet places like the area between your toes. Unfortunately, athlete's foot fungus spreads easily; you can get it simply by touching the feet or toes of someone who already has it. Once such a person has established the infection, they become a carrier and are more susceptible to recurrences and associated complications.


Main Digest

Athlete' foot is a a form of rash the develops on a person's foot, and is a common fungal skin infection. There are three main forms of athlete's foot; each form affects a different part of a person's foot and may appear different.

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Athlete's foot is caused by a fungus which grows either on top of or in a layer of skin in a person's foot. Athlete's foot fungi grow best in warm and wet places like the area between your toes. Athlete's foot is a common problem that is experienced by approximately seventy-percent of the population at some point in their lifetime.

Adult men commonly experience athlete's foot; it is not as common in women. Children may also get athlete's foot before puberty, despite gender. Athlete's foot seems to affect persons who have a characteristic of their immune system that predisposes them to infections despite any precautions they may take to prevent infection. Once such a person has established the infection, they become a carrier and are more susceptible to recurrences and associated complications.

Unfortunately, athlete's foot fungus spreads easily; you can get it simply by touching the feet or toes of someone who already has it. Many times people contact athlete's foot simply by walking barefoot on a surface that has been contaminated with it that is near to a locker room or swimming pool. The fungi then grows in their shoes, particularly if their shoes are tight enough that air is unable to move around their feet. If a person touches something that has the athlete's foot fungi in it they can spread it to other people, even if they don't get the infection themselves. Some people are more likely to get it than others, and experts don't know why. Once you have had athlete's foot once you are more likely to get it again.

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Image of athletes foot and infected under toes
Image of athletes foot and infected under toes

Symptoms of Athlete's Foot

Burning and itching toes, as well as peeling and cracking skin, are the primary symptoms of athlete's foot. An additional symptom may include an infection of the web between the fourth and fifth toes that causes the skin to become scaly, peel and crack. People with athlete's foot could also experience a bacterial infection that causes their skin to break down further. There is a moccasin-type infection that can start presenting very little soreness in the person's foot; the skin on the heel or bottom of their foot may become thick and crack. Should this become bad enough, their toenails can become infected, thicken and crumble, or even fall out entirely. Fungal infections of the toenails require separate treatment. Another symptom persons with athlete's foot may experience involves a vesicular infection that commonly starts with a rapid outbreak of large and fluid-filled blisters underneath their skin; often on the bottom of their feet. These blisters may also show up anywhere on their feet, and can cause a bacterial infection.

Diagnosing Athlete's Foot

The majority of the time a doctor can diagnose athlete's foot simply by looking at the person's foot. The doctor will ask questions about the symptoms the person is experiencing, as well as questions concerning any prior fungal infections the person might have had, or currently has. Should the athlete's foot the person has look unusual, or if the treatment they have received before did not work, the doctor may take either a nail or skin sample in order to test for fungi - not all skin issues on a person's foot are athlete's foot.

There is a clinical examination that can diagnose athlete's foot, called a KOH test. A positive KOH test is able to confirm a diagnosis of athlete's foot, but a negative test result does not mean the person being tested does not have it. Fungal elements associated with both inter-digital and moccasin-type athlete's foot can be difficult to isolate.

Skin Biopsy

A skin biopsy is a procedure a doctor may perform in order to assist in the diagnosis and treatment of athlete's foot if they determine it is necessary. Other names for a skin biopsy include Shave Biopsy and Punch Biopsy. During a skin biopsy, a medical professional will remove a piece of skin to diagnose or rule out athlete's foot. Many times this will be done in the doctor's office. You may receive a form of numbing agent in order to numb the area where the biopsy will be taken. Fluid-filled lesions could be examined through a procedure known as, 'skin lesion aspiration,' instead of a skin biopsy. It is important to tell the doctor if you have any allergies, or problems with bleeding.

Treating Athlete's Foot

Many times you can treat athlete's foot using over-the-counter cream, spray, or lotion. If the athlete's foot you are experiencing is bad enough, a doctor can prescribe medications for you to apply to your skin. You should use the medicated cream for the duration of the time the doctor has indicated to ensure good results and make sure that you get rid of the infection. It is important to keep your feet clean and dry because the athlete's foot fungi require moisture and warmth to grow.

There are some things you can do to prevent a recurrence of athlete's foot as well. Be sure to wear sandals in areas like locker rooms and use talcum powder in an effort to keep your feet dry. Wear shoes that have enough room in them for your feet to breath, and wear both shoes and sandals that are made of materials that allow moisture to escape.

Types of Athlete's Foot

There are three categories of Athletes foot. These categories include:

Chronic Interdigital Athlete's Foot is the most common form of athlete's foot, characterized by maceration, scaling, and fissures that appear most commonly in the web space between the person's fourth and fifth toes. Non-porous and tight-fitting shoes that a person wears may compress their toes, creating a moist and warm environment for the fungi to grow. The athlete's foot fungus is able to interact with bacteria in the web spaces of the person's toes, causing a more severe infection that has the potential to extend across the person's foot. This type of athlete's foot typically presents with a more intense itching when the person removes their socks and shoes.

Moccasin Type Athlete's Foot

This type of athlete's foot is caused by Trichophyton Rubum, a dermatophyte that causes scaling, dry skin on the sole of a person's foot. The scaling is silvery, fine, and the skin beneath it is usually both tender and pink. A person's hands may become infected as well, although this infection usually involves one hand, one foot, or both hands. Persons with eczema or asthma commonly experience this form of athlete's foot, and it has been associated with fungal nail infections that may lead to recurrent skin infections as well.

Acute Vesicular Athlete's Foot

Acute Vesicular Athlete's Foot is caused by Trichophyton Mentagrophytes. This type of athlete's foot usually starts in persons who have a chronic interdigital toe web infection. Acute Vesicular Athlete's Foot is characterized by a quick onset of painful blisters either on the sole of the person's foot or on the top of their foot. The person may experience another wave of blisters following the first one that involves additional areas of their body, such as their arms, fingers or chest. The blisters are caused by an allergic reaction to the fungus that is present on their foot and is known as an, 'id reaction.' This form of athlete's foot is also known as, 'jungle rot,' and is a historically disabling issue for servicemen fighting in conditions that are moist, warm and humid.

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Cite This Page (APA): Disabled World. (2009, April 14). Athlete's Foot : Causes Symptoms and Treatment. Disabled World. Retrieved June 2, 2023 from

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