Tinea Pedis (Athlete's Foot)

Tinea pedis is a superficial fungal skin infection that usually begins in the spaces between the toes. This disease is also known as athlete’s foot since this population usually have damp and sweaty feet, the perfect environment for the growth of fungi.

Last Updated: February 21, 2024

Athlete’s foot and other superficial fungal infections are caused by a certain group of fungi called dermatophytes. Infections caused by these fungi are spread through direct contact, more commonly in damp, contaminated areas such as the shower, locker room, or swimming pool. Walking barefoot and wearing tight-fitting shoes can increase the risk of an individual to get athlete’s foot. Scratching the feet can cause the infection to spread to the hands and other areas that are touched with the contaminated fingers.

Tinea pedis can affect one or both feet and the common symptoms are the following:

  • Scaly, peeling skin
  • Itchy skin, especially right after taking off shoes and socks
  • Red, inflamed skin
  • Burning or stinging sensation
  • Blisters

Athlete’s foot is diagnosed through proper history taking and clinical examination. Sometimes, the physician can order a diagnostic test called the KOH smear to observe the scaly skin under the microscope and look for the causative fungi species. Fungal cultures are also an option where a sample of the fungi is taken from the skin and grown in the laboratory to see what kind of fungi is present. 


Topical antifungal treatment is started once the diagnosis is confirmed. Some of the first-line treatment options include: terbinafine creams, itraconazole, and fluconazole. It would also be best to not pick or scratch the infection to prevent it from spreading to other parts of the body.

To prevent fungal infections from happening, it would be best to avoid walking barefoot in damp areas like public showers and swimming pools. Wearing slippers is recommended as this is a cheap and effective way of preventing athlete’s foot. 

 

Make sure to always clean and dry the feet properly before putting on socks and shoes. Avoid tight-fitting shoes as these can make the feet sweaty and promote the growth of fungi. Wear shoes that are comfortable and provide the feet with the proper ventilation they need.

 

References:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2017). Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis). https://www.cdc.gov/healthywater/hygiene/disease/athletes_foot.html

Goldstein, A., & Goldstein, B. (2022). Dermatophyte (tinea) infections. UpToDate. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/dermatophyte-tinea-infections

Last Updated: February 21, 2024