Athlete's foot is a common fungal infection that usually begins between the toes. It results from sweaty feet, or wearing tight shoes. Athletes usually develop it, but others, too. Warmth and moisture are necessary for the fungus to infect the skin.
This type of fungus generally likes to live in the skin, hair, and nails. It does not go into body organs, or into the blood system.
Athlete's foot is contagious and it spreads easily. It can be passed from person to person through contaminated towels, clothing and surfaces. Therefore it can be contracted in communal areas (gyms, pools, locker rooms, salons).
Athlete's foot is caused by damp socks and shoes, warm and humid conditions; it can be spread by contact with an infected person or from contact with contaminated towels, floors or shoes.
Athlete's foot may show no symptoms in some people; they think they have dry skin. Others feel itching between the toes after the shoes are taken off. Rarely, athlete’s foot can blister or bleed. There could be chronic dryness of the soles, scaling or peeling. The infection can affect one or both feet and can spread to the hand — especially if you scratch the infected parts of the feet.
You have a risk of athlete's foot if you:
- Frequently wear damp socks or tight shoes
- Share clothes or shoes with someone who has a fungal infection, or share mats, walk barefoot on rugs, floors, locker rooms or communal areas
- Have a weakened immune system
Complications in athlete's foot infection imply that it can spread to other parts of your body:
- Your hand – if you scratch the infected parts of the feet
- Your nails and fingernails – it can also infect your toenails, which are more resistant to treatment.
- Your groin – the fungus can infect your groin by a towel
People with immune problems (if they have HIV/AIDS, diabetes or cancer) may acquire various infections, including fungus. In diabetic patients, fungal infections may lead to potentially dangerous foot ulcerations.
You can avoid or ease the symptoms of athlete's foot by:
- Keeping dry feet, especially between the toes – go barefoot to let your feet air out
- Using powder, antifungal, on your feet daily.
- Changing socks regularly, especially if they get wet
- Wearing light and ventilated shoes
- Wearing different shoes every day, so that your shoes dry between wearings.
- Not wearing other people’s shoes
Protecting your feet if you are in public places – wear shower shoes in communal areas.