Athlete's foot is a fungal infection that causes red, dry, flaking skin, sometimes accompanied by pain or itching. The condition usually occurs between the toes or on the soles or sides of the feet. In its acute stage, the infected foot exhibits blisters that itch or "weep". Athlete's Foot can spread to the toenails, causing chronic fungal infections. Often when a patient thinks the feet are only dry and cracking, Athlete's Foot is responsible for the problem.
Fungal infections like Athlete's Foot are often contracted in showers, gyms, dressing rooms, swimming pool lockers, or other warm, damp areas where fungus can thrive. The name of the condition comes from the fact that athletes spend the most time in these environments and therefore are at a higher risk of fungal infection.
Once fungal spores are present on the feet, they can enter fissures or sores and remain there to spread, unless the feet are carefully washed and thoroughly dried after exposure.
Athlete's Foot can spread from the toes to the toenails. If the patient touches or scratches the infection and then touches other parts of the body, the fungus can spread to fingernails or other parts of the body, including the groin or underarms.
Like any foot condition, Athlete's Foot is of special concern to people with diabetes and compromised immune systems who are more susceptible to developing infections that can lead to serious medical problems.