What is Athlete's Foot?

Imagine one day while strolling, you notice your toes itching. You look down to check and see some of your toes are scaly. You might dismiss it at first, but there is a chance it gets worse. In fact, it may be Tinea pedis, also known by "Athlete’s Foot" due to its frequency in athletes. According to Healthline, athlete’s foot is a contagious fungal condition commonly on feet but can spread to your hands.

Athlete’s foot has many causes to its symptoms. The major symptoms of athlete's foot include itching, dry, and scaly skin around the toes. It is caused by the fungus, Tinea fungus, which grows on the feet. Athlete’s feet are largely contagious and are spread through physical or clothes-to-skin contact with a person who has the fungus on them. Furthermore, wearing footwear that exposes your feet more, such as sandals, make you more likely to get athlete’s feet. These fungi commonly live in warm, humid environments, including the shower and locker rooms. Athlete’s foot is diagnosed through a skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam. In this procedure, a doctor takes a sample of the affected skin and puts it in potassium hydroxide. The normal cells dissolve and fungal cells remain, which are visible under a microscope to diagnose athlete’s foot-- if no fungal cells is present, the person does not have athlete’s foot. Especially for immunocompromised patients, the longer athlete’s foot is untreated, the higher chance for complications, including osteomyelitis and cellulite to arise.

Currently, there are topical medications, which one applies over affected areas, and oral medications, which one consumes, available for athlete’s foot. Majority of these are classed as anti-fungal/ There are over-the-counter (OTC) and medically prescribed medications. OTC topical medications include miconazole (Desenex), terbinafine (Lamisil AT), and clotrimazole (Lotrimin AF); prescribed medication include topical steroid medications to reduce inflammation and oral antibiotics for bacterial infections.

The next time you go to a public locker room or borrow clothes from someone, make sure to be aware of hygiene to avoid getting infections just like Athlete’s foot.


- Nigam, P. K. (2020, September 8). Tinea Pedis. StatPearls [Internet]. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK470421/.

- Team, the H. E. (2019, March 8). Athlete's Foot: Causes, Symptoms, and Diagnosis. Healthline. https://www.healthline.com/health/athletes-foot.


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