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Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot is a common fungal infection that affects many people at some time in their lives. The condition easily spreads in public places such as communal showers, locker rooms and fitness centers.

Most infections respond well to topical agents, which include:


If your fungal infection is severe or doesn’t respond to topical medicine, your doctor may give you a prescription oral medication. Oral medications include:

What is Athlete’s Foot?

Usually this condition affects the spaces between your toes, but it can spread to your toenails and the soles and sides of your feet. The infection can also involve your palms and fingers. Although it occurs primarily in adults, athlete’s foot can affect children.

Changing socks, keeping your feet dry and alternating shoes can help you prevent athlete’s foot. Often, athlete’s foot responds well to over-the-counter treatments you can apply to your skin. More severe cases may require oral medications.

What are the symptoms of Athlete’s Foot?

The signs and symptoms of athlete’s foot can be numerous, although you probably won’t have all of them:

  • Itching, stinging and burning between your toes, especially the last two toes
  • Itching, stinging and burning on the soles of your feet
  • Itchy blisters
  • Cracking and peeling skin, especially between your toes and on the soles of your feet
  • Excessive dryness of the skin on the bottoms or sides of the feet
  • Nails that are thick, crumbly, ragged, discolored or pulling away from the nail bed

What causes Athlete’s Foot?

A group of fungi called dermatophytes causes athlete’s foot. These organisms sprout tendril-like extensions that infect the superficial layer of the skin. In response to this fungal growth, the basal layer of the skin produces more skin cells than usual. As these cells push to the surface, the skin becomes thick and scaly. Most often, the more the fungi spread, the more scales your skin produces, causing the ring of advancing infection to form.

Also called tinea pedis, ringworm of the foot and dermatophytosis, athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal skin conditions, most with similar names. Tinea is a type of fungus, and pedis is the Latin word for “foot.” Other common tinea infections include:

  • Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). This form causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of your skin.
  • Jock itch (tinea cruris). This form affects your genitals, inner thighs and buttocks.
  • Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). This form is most common in children and involves red, itchy patches on the scalp, leaving bald patches.

How is Athlete’s Foot treated?

For mild conditions, your doctor may advise you to apply a prescription or over-the-counter antifungal ointment, lotion, powder or spray. Most infections respond well to these topical agents, which include:

  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil AT)

If your fungal infection is severe or doesn’t respond to topical medicine, your doctor may give you a prescription oral medication. Oral medications include:

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), oral Sporanox and oral Lamisil may be linked to rare cases of liver failure and death. Oral Sporanox may weaken the heart’s contractions and shouldn’t be prescribed for people with a history of heart failure.

Griseofulvin (Fulvicin, Grifulvin), an older oral medication, has been prescribed less often since the introduction of the newer medicines. It’s effective, but can take months to clear up the infection.

Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help clear up blisters or soggy skin.

How can you avoid Athlete’s Foot?

These tips can help you avoid athlete’s foot or ease the symptoms if infection occurs:

  • Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes. Go barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re home.
  • Go with natural materials. Wear socks that are made of natural material, such as cotton or wool, or a synthetic fiber designed to draw moisture away from your feet.
  • Change socks and stockings regularly. If your feet sweat a lot, change your socks twice a day.
  • Wear light, well-ventilated shoes. Avoid shoes made of synthetic material, such as vinyl or rubber.
  • Alternate pairs of shoes. This allows time for your shoes to dry.
  • Protect your feet in public places. Wear waterproof sandals or shower shoes in communal showers, pools, fitness centers and other public areas.
  • Treat your feet. Use an antifungal powder daily.
  • Don’t borrow shoes. Borrowing risks spreading a fungal infection.

Doctorsolve Healthcare Solution site strives to provide you with timely, accurate information, which is not intended for diagnosis or treatment.

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