Athlete’s foot is also known as tinea pedis in medical terms. It is an infection of the feet caused by fungus. The fungi that cause the infection of the feet are called as dermatophytes. This fungus thrives and multiplies in a warm and moist environment. People, who sweat excessively, especially on the feet, or people who indulge in rigorous physical activity such as laborers or people who exercise vigorously such as athletes are at an increased risk of developing athlete’s foot.
The characteristic symptoms of athlete’s foot are mentioned below:
- Toe webs are the major site of attack by the fungus
The marked symptoms of tinea pedis include scaling and peeling of the skin in the toe webs or the area between the toes. As a result of this, the infected feet appear cracked. The dermatophytes cause a patchy and flaky appearance of the skin. These fungi invade the “dead” outer layers of the skin.
- The infection may cause burning pain in the soles of the feet
The infection may also involve the soles of the feet . a person affected by tinea pedis often complains of a burning pain or a stinging pain and irritating sensation in the soles of the feet. The soles may appear to be cracked. There may be formation of blisters on the feet and red patchy spots on the soles.
- The infection of the feet may spread to the nails
If the fungus spreads to the nails, then the nails get infected. This condition is known as onychomycosis. As a result of this, the nails may appear as discolored and thick. The fungus may even attack the nails to such an extent that it may cause the nails to crumble. However, the usual case of athlete’s foot is a more superficial infection than the more stubborn and deep seated nail infection.
- Athlete’s foot may lead to secondary bacterial infection of the feet
Over a period of time, the fungal infection of the feet can lead to a secondary bacterial infection. The fungus may set off a reaction causing the breakdown of the tissue in between the toes. This results in an eroded, soggy, cracked appearance of the toes. The bacterial infection of the feet may lead to the formation of pus, a foul odor and itchiness. As the condition worsens, painful cracking in the toe webs and some oozing may develop.
- Infection of the feet can also spread to other parts of the body
In addition to the toes, the symptoms of the fungal infection can also occur on the heels, palms, and the skin between the fingers. In these cases the palms and the fingers can appear bisterd and flaky.
In many cases, the symptoms of athlete’s foot can be confused with some common conditions such shoe bite or blisters on the foot due to wearing wrong size shoes. The symptoms of athlete’s foot also mimic other skin condition such as skin allergies and skin diseases such as scabies and psoriasis.