Athlete’s foot: What is it? Causes and Treatment

athlete's foot causes and treatments

Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common skin infection caused due to fungus. It can appear on the feet in the form of blisters, sores, rashes, and cracks that can open up and have blood and pus in them. Apart from feet, they can spread to the toenails and hands.

Why is Athlete Foot Called So?

As it commonly happens to athletes, that’s where it gets its name from. However, it isn’t restricted just to athletes and can happen to anyone.  

What Causes Athlete’s Foot?

  • In most cases, a variety of fungi belonging to the group known as dermatophytes are responsible for athlete’s foot. 
  • The fungi easily survive in moist, closed and warm environments and feed on keratin found in hair, skin and nail. 
  • You can usually find them in areas such as swimming pools, showers and locker room floors. 
  • Poor hygiene could also result in this, especially when you wear shoes for long periods and don’t wash your feet. If you have sweaty feet, the condition could be worse. 
  • In most cases, blisters on your feet can itch, and when you tend to scratch it, the skin could crack open and release a fluid that’s mostly filled with pus. If not cleaned properly, it could aggravate the condition. Dry skin with skin peeling is also another symptom of this infection.
  • Feet are prone to being sweaty and retaining moisture leading to athlete’s foot. However, there can be other reasons for foot rashes, such as contact dermatitis and allergic reactions.

Treatment For Athlete’s Foot

Once your doctor examines your condition, she/he can prescribe oral antifungals, antibiotics or topical corticosteroids. Continue this for at least four weeks to help get rid of the infection.  

Athlete’s foot can get complicated in case pus oozes out from the fissures or crack and you don’t clean it well. If this infection further spreads to the other parts of your body, it could be harmful to your health.

How Can You Prevent Athlete’s Foot?

As prevention is always better than cure, it’s always best to do as much as possible to prevent this condition. 

  • Make sure you wash your feet and take good care of them. 
  • Alternate between your footwear and choose shoes that allow good air circulation.
  • Avoid wearing dirty and sweaty socks. Make sure to change and wash your socks. Let your feet breathe once in a while. 
  • Wear socks made out of breathable fabric.  
  • Do not share towels, socks or shoes with others. 
  • Lastly, avoid walking barefoot in public spaces, such as showers, pools, and gyms. 

Summing Up

The symptoms of athlete’s foot can be mild or severe. Some clear up quickly, just by applying antifungal powders/cream, whereas others could be a bit complicated. It may take longer and even require medical supervision. People susceptible to this infection or with a weak immune system or diabetes have to be extra cautious. If you notice bleeding, redness, swelling or the infection not clearing up, consult a doctor.  


1. What happens if athlete’s foot is left untreated?

Leaving it untreated can lead to the infection spreading to other parts of your body. 

2. Should you wear socks while sleeping if you have athlete’s foot?

Yes, you can wear socks while sleeping to avoid transmitting the fungus to other members of your family or anyone sleeping next to you. 

3. Is lemon good for athlete’s foot?

Never apply lemon on athlete’s foot. Not just lemon, avoid using anything without proper knowledge or consulting your doctor. It can further worsen your condition. 

4. Should you throw your shoes if you have athlete’s foot?

You may not feel like throwing away your shoes, especially if you love them. However, it’s better to throw away your shoes if you are someone who already has athlete’s foot or frequently faces issues related to foot fungus. It will help avoid transmitting the infection back to your feet. 



Picture of Dr Jisha Gomez

Dr Jisha Gomez

She is a highly skilled dermatology physician with strong expertise in improving skin & hair health through the development of corrective treatment combinations. She completed her Post-graduate Diploma in Dermatology from Cardiff, UK & Fellowship in Aesthetic Medicine (FAM) from the Institute of Laser and Aesthetic Medicine, Delhi with over 5+ years experience treating skin patients. She has worked in Government hospitals in Trivandrum and Bangalore. She is actively involved in creating awareness for healthy skin, breaking the social stigma based on skin colour & stopping steroid abuse in our country.