Athlete's Foot Signs and Symptoms

There are four common forms of athlete's foot. Common athlete's foot symptoms include persistent itching of the skin on the sole of the foot or between the toes (often the fourth and fifth toes). As the infection progresses, the skin grows soft and the center of the infection becomes inflamed and sensitive to the touch. Gradually, the edges of the infected area become milky white and the skin begins to peel. A slight watery discharge also may be present.

In ulcerative athlete's foot, the peeling skin worsens and large cracks develop in the skin, making the patient susceptible to secondary bacterial infections. The infection can be transmitted to other parts of the body by scratching, or contamination of clothing or bedding.

A third type of tinea pedis is often called "moccasin foot." In this type of athlete's foot, a red rash spreads across the lower portion of the foot in the pattern of a moccasin. The skin in this region gradually becomes dense, white, and scaly.

The fourth form of tinea pedis is inflammatory or vesicular, in which a series of raised bumps or ridges develops under the skin on the bottom of the foot, typically in the region of the metatarsal heads. Itching is intense and less skin peeling occurs.

People with acute tinea infections can develop similar symptoms on their hands, typically on the palms. This reaction, also known as tineas manuum, is an immune system response to fungal antigens (i.e., antibodies that fight the fungal infection).

Publication Review By: James P. Licandro, D.P.M., John J. Swierzewski, D.P.M., Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 01 Jan 2000

Last Modified: 17 May 2011