Athlete’s foot is a common skin infection caused due to fungus. It can be seen on the feet in the form of blisters, sores, rashes, and cracks that can open up and be filled with blood and pus. It is a contagious infection and can also pass onto your toes and feet as well. It can spread especially when a person exchanges towels and other materials with others (1).

Fungus thrives in moist places, hence it occurs when one sweats a lot and when they wear shoes for prolonged periods of time. This is a common condition among athletes. One can get this fungal infection either when they touch the fungus somewhere, such as in showers, or by coming directly in contact with a person who has the same infection.

It being called ‘athlete’s foot’ does not restrict it just to athletes. Anyone who is a frequent visitor to public pools, showers and even gyms could encounter this. Poor hygiene could also result in this, especially when you wear shoes for long periods of time and don’t wash your feet. If you have sweaty feet this condition could be worse (2).

In most cases, the 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 this isn’t cleaned properly, it could worsen the condition. Dry skin with skin peeling is also another symptom of Athlete’s foot.

This being said, foot rashes can be caused due to other reasons as well. While feet are prone to being sweaty and retaining moisture, this could lead to athlete’s foot. The other reasons include irritant, contact dermatitis, and allergic reactions.

Diagnosis

A doctor can diagnose this condition by purely looking at the symptoms itself. Although, in some cases, she/he might ask you to take a skin test as well. One of the common tests that is done to diagnose this condition is the skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam.

What is done here is the doctor scrapes off a part of the skin and puts it in a solution of potassium hydroxide. The chemicals dissolve the normal skin cells and leave the fungus infected cells. This thus can help in the diagnosis of Athlete’s foot.

Also read: 5 things you didn’t know about seeing a Dermatologist

Treatment

To treat athlete’s foot once it is diagnosed, your doctor might prescribe some medicines in the form of ointment that needs to be topically applied to the infected areas. This process should be continued for at least four weeks to help get rid of the skin condition.

Oral antifungal and antibiotics, or topical corticosteroids are commonly prescribed medications(3).

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.

As prevention is always better than cure, it’s always best to do as much as you can to prevent this condition. Make sure you wash your feet and take good care of it, alternate between your footwear and make sure to change and wash your socks. Let your feet breathe once in a white, and choose shoes which allow good air circulation.

And lastly, avoid walking barefoot in public spaces, such as showers, pools, and gyms, and don’t exchange towels, socks, or any other items that could spread this infection.

Here are some of the frequently asked questions

  • Is Athlete’s foot a fungal or bacterial infection?
    Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection.
  • Does athlete’s foot spread?
    Yes, it does spread because it is caused due to a fungal infection of the skin. Anything caused due to bacteria and fungus is prone to spread. Moreover, these organisms thrive in moist areas, which means they thrive in areas that are generally sweaty and wet.
  • What is Athlete’s foot called in Hindi?
    Athlete’s foot is called पैरों का दाद in Hindi.
  • What is Athlete’s foot called in Tamil?
    Athlete’s foot is called சேற்றுப் புண் in Tamil.
  • How is Athlete’s foot treated?
    Athlete’s foot is treated with certain topical medication as well as oral medication if needed.

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