Athlete's foot is named because it is acquired from contact with dark, moist places common to athletes, such as sneakers and locker room floors. Athlete's foot is contagious. The best way to avoid getting athlete's foot is to keep the feet dry at all times and to avoid the surfaces that the fungus lives on. The fungus can also be acquired from contaminated soil or animals.
- Spaces (webs) between the toes, especially between the 4th and 5th toes and between the 3rd and 4th toes
- Soles of the feet
- Tops of the feet
- On the top of the foot, athlete's foot appears as a red scaly patch or patches, ranging in size from 1 to 5 cm. The border of the affected skin may be raised, with bumps, blisters, or scabs. Often, the central portion of the lesion is clear, leading to a ring-like shape and the descriptive (but inaccurate) name "ringworm."
- Between the toes (the interdigital spaces), athlete's foot may appear as inflamed, scaly, and soggy tissue. Splitting of the skin (fissures) may be present between or under the toes. This form of athlete's foot tends to be quite itchy.
- On the sole of the foot (the plantar surface), athlete's foot may appear as pink-to-red skin with scales ranging in size from a small area affected to widespread (diffuse).
- Another type of infection, called bullous tinea pedis, appears as painful and itchy blisters on the arch (instep) and/or the ball of the foot.
- The most severe form of the infection, called ulcerative tinea pedis, appears as painful blisters, pus-filled bumps (pustules), and shallow ulcers. These lesions are especially common between the toes but may involve the entire sole. Because of the numerous breaks in the skin, lesions commonly become infected with bacteria. Ulcerative tinea pedis occurs most frequently in people with diabetes and in others with weak immune systems.
In addition, try to keep your feet dry, creating conditions where the dermatophyte cannot live and grow:
- Wash your feet daily and dry them carefully, even using a hair dryer (on low setting) if necessary.
- Use a separate towel for your feet, and do not share this towel with anyone else.
- Wear socks made of cotton or wool, and change them once or twice a day, or even more often if they become damp.
- Avoid shoes made of synthetic materials such as rubber or vinyl.
- Wear sandals as often as possible.
- Apply antifungal powder to your feet and inside your shoes every day.
- Wear protective footwear in locker rooms and public or community pools and showers.
Once the diagnosis of athlete's foot has been confirmed, your physician will probably start treatment with an antifungal medication. Most infections can be treated with topical creams and lotions, including:
- Over-the-counter preparations such as terbinafine, clotrimazole, or miconazole
- Prescription-strength creams such as econazole, oxiconazole, ciclopirox, ketoconazole, sulconazole, naftifine, or butenafine
- Compounds containing urea, lactic acid, or salicylic acid, to help dissolve the scale and allow the antifungal cream to penetrate better into the skin
- Solutions containing aluminum chloride, which reduces sweating of the foot
- Antibiotic creams to prevent or treat bacterial infections, if present