Athlete's Foot - Tinea Pedis

athletes foot infections

Athlete's Foot

What causes it?

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the foot caused by parasites on the skin called dermatophytes. Dermatophytes can be divided into three groups according to their favourite hosts:

  • fungi preferring soil (geophile) fungi preferring animals (zoophile) and fungi preferring humans (anthropophile).
  • Athlete's foot is usually caused by anthropophile fungi. The most common species are Microsporum, Epidermophyton and Trichophyton. These account for 90 percent of all skin fungal infections, commonly referred to as ringworm.

We all have one or more of the fungi that can cause athlete's foot on our bodies. They feed on dead skin cells and are usually harmless.

Athlete's foot is a common condition in young people and adults. The fungi love warm, moist places with the result they are primarily a problem for people who wear tight-fitting trainers or don't dry their feet properly.

The condition is contagious. It can be spread by direct skin-to-skin contact and indirectly through towels, shoes, floors, etc.

What are the symptoms?

There are two variants of the condition.

Classic cases:

The infection is caused by one of the most common fungi.

  • A red itchy rash in the spaces between the toes (often between the 4th and 5th toes initially) and possibly small pustules.
  • Often a small degree of scaling.
  • The infection can spread to the rest of the foot and other parts of the body.

Rarer cases:

Infection of the soles of both feet by Trichophyton rubrum.

  • The skin reddens and its furrows become marked, resembling chalked lines.
  • If the condition is not treated, a similar rash may appear on one or both palms.
  • After a while, the rash becomes scaly, resembling eczema.


  • Wash the feet every day and allow them to dry properly before putting on shoes and socks.
  • You should use a separate towel to dry your feet. To avoid passing the infection on you should not share these towels with anyone else.
  • Wear socks made of cotton or wool, and change them at least twice a day or when they have become damp.
  • Avoid wearing shoes which are made of synthetic materials.
  • Wear sandals or leather shoes instead.
  • Powder the feet and the inside of the shoes with an antifungal powder.

Treatment is based on the severity, extent, and location of the fungal infection. Sometimes all that is required is a topical medication, and at other times systemic treatment (medicines by mouth) may be required. Dr. Crutchfield will carefully evaluate the situation and make the appropriate treatment recommendation for you.

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Crutchfield Dermatology

1185 Town Centre Drive, Suite 101
Eagan, MN 55123 USA

Phone: (651) 209-3600 Fax: (651) 209-3601

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