Athlete's Foot (Tinea Pedis)

Perhaps the best-known fungus infection of the skin is athlete's foot, or tinea pedis. Possibly 10 percent of the U.S. population has athlete's foot at any given time. It is more common among adults and adolescents; however, people of any age may contract it.

There are four variants of athlete's foot. The most common form involves the webs between the toes, particularly between the fourth and fifth toes. From there it may spread to the soles or other parts of the feet. Sweating and moisture may be an underlying cause.

Another variant, known as moccasin-type tinea pedis, appears as diffuse, somewhat thick scaling over the entire sole (like a moccasin or slipper). It is usually seen on both sides of the feet.

In the third variation, vesicular type, small blisters are typical, especially near the instep of the foot. This type is quite itchy.

In the fourth variation there is skin peeling and an oozing fluid discharge. White areas are often seen, and there is a strong odor. This may be due to a concomitant bacterial infection. This type usually starts as red, itchy inflammation between the toes.

Tinea pedis is difficult to eliminate and often comes back. There are a number of antifungal medications that are effective in treating athlete's foot and other fungal infections. Some are over-the-counter and others require a prescription. The medications may be topical (applied to the skin) or oral (swallowed). Sometimes a bacterial infection occurs along with the fungal infection. In that case, an antibiotic may be prescribed.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Aug 2000

Last Modified: 17 Sep 2015