What is Athlete's Foot?

Itchy Feet May Be Caused by a Common Fungal Infection Known As Athlete's Foot


Itchy, scaly toes? Chances are you have athlete’s foot, also known as ringworm of the feet. The name athlete's foot was derived from the fact that it is often spread through standing water around swimming pools, public showers, and locker rooms.

Fungal infections are more common than we think. Skin infections are common. They can cause all sorts of infections of the skin, nails, and elsewhere due to fungi.

Sometimes we don't even realize they are infections - like when people notice their white spots on their skin.

Fungal infections of our feet can be brought on by trying to keep our feet nice and clean. That is to say, getting a pedicure could possibly put you at risk for a fungal infection. It's possible that if a Nail Salon does not use good hygienic technique that you could be exposed to fungi that lead to Athlete's foot. However, many Nail Salons do a great job at following protocols and keeping your hands (and feet) safe.

People with Diabetes are prone to a lot of different types of infections, including fungal infections, and especially foot infections. If you have diabetes, it's important to get check-ups regularly with your doctor, nurse, podiatrist, or other provider.

Species Name: Various species of Trichophyton fungi or Epidermophyton

Type of Microbe: Fungus

How it Causes Disease: The fungi attach to keratin-containing cells, such as those found in the skin, near the hair, and fingernails.

How it Spreads: Athlete’s foot gets spread through cuts or scrapes in the feet. This happens where the moisture from sweat facilitates growth of the fungus. It is spread in locker rooms, public showers, and near swimming pools, where people have repeated exposure to standing water. It can also spread at Nail Salons.

Who’s at Risk? People who have exposure to swimming pools, locker rooms, and public showers (not just athletes). This can be at a spa or after yoga. It's not just a problem for those on sports teams.

Symptoms: Symptoms include itchy, burning, cracked and scaly skin between the toes. This can spread to the toenails. If toenails are affected, they become thick and crumbly.

Diagnosis: Athlete's foot is diagnosed by appearance, and additional tests are usually not necessary. If confirmation is needed, skin scrapings can be examined through the microscope for the presence of fungi.

Prognosis: With proper treatment, athlete’s foot will resolve in 2 to 4 weeks, with no long-term consequences.

Treatment: Treatments include topical anti-fungal creams, such as nystatin, terbinafine, clotrimazole, or miconazole, applied once or twice every day for 14 to 21 days. Please talk to your doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional about what is best for you.

Prevention: Practice good foot hygiene. Wash and dry feet well, especially between toes.

Please wear clean and dry socks. It's best not to walk barefoot in public areas, such as in shared showers or around swimming pools. It's important to use Nail Salons that keep up to Hygienic Standards. It's also important that anyone with Diabetes, in particular, takes good care of their feet.


Athlete’s Foot. MedlinePlus. US National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health.

Mims CA, Playfair JH, Roitt, IM, Wakelin D, Williams R, and Anderson RM. Medical Microbiology. ©1993. Mosby-Year Book Europe Limited. London, UK.

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