Athlete's foot is a form of dermatophytosis (fungal infection of the skin), caused by dermatophytes, fungi (most of which are mold) which inhabit dead layers of skin and digests keratin.[2] Dermatophytes are anthropophilic, meaning these parasitic fungi prefer human hosts. Athlete's foot is most commonly caused by the molds known as Trichophyton rubrum and T. mentagrophytes,[21] but may also be caused by Epidermophyton floccosum.[22][23] Most cases of athlete's foot in the general population are caused by T. rubrum; however, the majority of athlete's foot cases in athletes are caused by T. mentagrophytes.[13]
Is it nail psoriasis or fungus? Is it nail psoriasis or fungus? Nail psoriasis is the result of a systemic condition in which the skin, and therefore also the nails, grow too fast. Nail fungus is the result of an infection, and it more common in the toenails. It is important to know the difference, so that effective treatment can be provided. Read now
Healing time depends on the type of treatment used. Prevention of a new infection is important. Orthopaedic foot and ankle specialists recommend good foot hygiene with frequent changing of stockings and rotating pairs of shoes to allow them to completely dry between uses. Also, avoid going barefoot in locker rooms and around swimming pools. If you have a pedicure, make sure the nail salon uses sterilized instruments.

Fungal nails (onychomycosis) may be caused by many species of fungi, but the most common is Trichophyton rubrum. Distal subungal onychomycosis starts as a discolored area at the nail's corner and slowly spread toward the cuticle. In proximal subungal onychomycosis, the infection starts at the cuticle and spreads toward the nail tip. Yeast onychomycosis is caused by Candida and may be the most common cause of fungal fingernail.


Because athlete's foot may itch, it may also elicit the scratch reflex, causing the host to scratch the infected area before they realize it. Scratching can further damage the skin and worsen the condition by allowing the fungus to more easily spread and thrive. The itching sensation associated with athlete's foot can be so severe that it may cause hosts to scratch vigorously enough to inflict excoriations (open wounds), which are susceptible to bacterial infection. Further scratching may remove scabs, inhibiting the healing process.


Dermatophytes — fungus that grows on the skin, hair and nails but don’t penetrate tissues of the body. Athlete’s foot or Trichophyton rubrum is the most common dermatophyte and can actually infect the toenails. Infection can also begin by touching objects that have dermatophytes on them, such as nail clippers, nail files, socks, shoes, shower floors, etc. Dermatophytes are the cause of most fungal toenail infections.


Ultra-high heels force the feet into a position that puts stress on the ball of the foot. At this critical joint, the long metatarsal bones meet the pea-shaped sesamoid bones, and the toe bones (phalanges). Too much pressure can inflame these bones or the nerves that surround them. Chronic stress to the foot bones can even lead to hairline fractures.


Français: se débarrasser d’une onychomycose, Italiano: Liberarsi dall'Onicomicosi, Español: eliminar los hongos de las uñas de los pies (onicomicosis), Deutsch: Zehenpilz loswerden, Português: Se Livrar de Pé de Atleta, 中文: 治疗甲癣, Русский: лечить грибковое поражение ногтя, Nederlands: Van schimmelnagels afkomen, Bahasa Indonesia: Menyingkirkan Jamur di Jari Kaki, Čeština: Jak vyléčit plíseň na nehtech, ไทย: กำจัดเชื้อราที่เล็บเท้า, हिन्दी: पैर के फंगल संक्रमण से छुटकारा पाएँ, العربية: التخلّص من فطريات الأظافر, Tiếng Việt: Điều trị Nấm móng chân
Some methods of prevention include avoiding walking barefoot in public showers, keeping the toenails short, wearing big enough shoes, and changing socks daily.[4][5] When infected, the feet should be kept dry and clean and wearing sandals may help.[3] Treatment can be either with antifungal medication applied to the skin such as clotrimazole or for persistent infections antifungal medication that are taken by mouth such as terbinafine.[2][4] The use of the cream is typically recommended for four weeks.[4]
When visiting a doctor, the basic diagnosis procedure applies. This includes checking the patient's medical history and medical record for risk factors,[11] a medical interview during which the doctor asks questions (such as about itching and scratching), and a physical examination.[11] Athlete's foot can usually be diagnosed by visual inspection of the skin and by identifying less obvious symptoms such as itching of the affected area.
For more severe cases, oral antifungal medications might be required. These include fluconazole (an antifungal agent also commonly used to treat thrush), terbinafine (a broad-spectrum antifungal) and griseofulvin (usually used for skin infections). The latter is a very old drug and carries the risk of causing damage to the liver. Terbinafine is most effective and therefore is the preferred oral treatment. A 12-week course cures 70-80% of cases by causing the fungi’s cells to leak and die. It can, however, cause gastrointestinal side effects and depression.
For this treatment, the affected toe or finger first has to be soaked in warm water for ten minutes and then dried. After that, the urea-based cream is applied to the nail, and the nail is covered with an adhesive bandage. After 24 hours, the bandage is removed and the toe or finger is held in warm water again. The softened layer of the nail is then scraped off using a spatula, the cream is applied again and the nail is covered with a new bandage. This treatment is carried out over 14 days. Once the infected part of the nail has been scraped away completely, the skin beneath is treated for another four weeks with a bifonazole cream.
Select shoes that fit right –  Choosing the correct footwear is a must if you want to avoid toenail fungus. Shoes should not touch your toenails at all. Don’t jam your feet into shoes that are too big either – this will cause you to jam your toenail into the front of the shoe causing damage. According to the American Academy of Physicians, the best shoes have a wide toe box.

Use tea tree oil. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-fungal. One study showed that tea tree oil may be effective for nail fungus. 18% of patients who used tea tree oil twice daily for 24 weeks were cleared of the infection.[13] To treat nail fungus with tea tree oil, use a 100% solution because lower concentrations have not been proven to be effective for this particular infection.[14]


Griseofulvin (Gris-Peg, Grifulvin V, Griseofulvin Ultramicrosize) is an antibiotic prescribed to treat fungal infections such as ringworm of the body, athlete's foot, barber's itch, and fungal or ringworm of the nails. Side effects, drug interactions, dosing, storage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.
Take oral medication. The most effective way to get rid of nail fungus is systemic treatment with oral prescription antifungals. Treatment with oral medications can take 2-3 months or longer. Oral antifungal prescription medications include Lamisil, which is usually prescribed with a dose of 250 mg a day for 12 weeks. Side effects can include rash, diarrhea, or liver enzyme abnormalities. This medication should not be used if you have liver or kidney issues.
There are several preventive foot hygiene measures that can prevent athlete's foot and reduce recurrence. Some of these include keeping the feet dry, clipping toenails short; using a separate nail clipper for infected toenails; using socks made from well-ventilated cotton or synthetic moisture wicking materials (to soak moisture away from the skin to help keep it dry); avoiding tight-fitting footwear, changing socks frequently; and wearing sandals while walking through communal areas such as gym showers and locker rooms.[8][13][28]

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved several medicines as topical applications to help treat foot and toenail fungus and prevent the fungus from recurring. PROFOOT anti-fungal products containing Tolnaftate 1% are clinically proven to cure and prevent fungal infections on skin around, adjacent to, and under nails, making it easy to treat fungal infections all day, every day, until they have cleared. ProClearz Fungal Shield is a safe and effective clear formula that dries quickly with no unpleasant odor. The 1 oz. bottle comes with a brush-on applicator designed to reach skin areas around and under nails.
Globally, fungal infections affect about 15% of the population and affects one out of five adults.[2][21] Athlete's foot is common in individuals who wear unventilated (occlusive) footwear, such as rubber boots or vinyl shoes.[21][23] Countries and regions where going barefoot is more common experience much lower rates of athlete's foot than do populations which habitually wear shoes; as a result, the disease has been called "a penalty of civilization".[35] Studies have demonstrated that men are infected 2–4 times more often than women.[2]
Before taking action and finding the best nail fungus treatment for you, it is important to note that toenail fungus and skin fungus, such as athlete’s foot, often manifest together. For the best results, both should be treated at the same time to prevent an ongoing infection. You can recognize athlete’s foot by the dry, scaling, peeling skin on the bottom of the feet. Your feet may also itch, or exude a noticeable odor.
Other risk factors include perspiring heavily, being in a humid or moist environment, psoriasis, wearing socks and shoes that hinder ventilation and do not absorb perspiration, going barefoot in damp public places such as swimming pools, gyms and shower rooms, having athlete's foot (tinea pedis), minor skin or nail injury, damaged nail, or other infection, and having diabetes, circulation problems, which may also lead to lower peripheral temperatures on hands and feet, or a weakened immune system.[11]

The most reliable way to diagnose athlete’s foot is to correctly identify its cause. Fungal athlete's foot is relatively straightforward to diagnose and treat. Visualization of the fungus in skin scrapings removed from the affected areas of the feet is a painless and cost-effective method for diagnosis. Rarely, it is necessary to identify fungi in portions of skin removed during a biopsy. If no fungus is found, other causes of athlete's foot must be investigated.
Unfortunately, athlete’s foot is highly contagious and the fungus can easily spread to the toes and toenails, causing infections. There are more than three million cases of toenail fungus in the US every year. Not all toenail infections are from athlete’s foot or even from a fungus; some are caused by yeast or mold. These are much harder to cure than fungal infections.
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and should not be relied on to make decisions about your health. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the WebMD Site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.
Elizabeth is an experienced freelance writer, specializing in health & wellness, education & learning, family life & parenting, and women's issues. She's been published on Huffington Post, and was a regular contributor to Love Live Health and Daily Home Remedy. Elizabeth is a retired primary school principal and education consultant, with a continuing passion for education and learning. She's familiar with writing newsletters, reports to stakeholders, financial reports, business plans and evaluation reports.

Starts at the base of the nail and raises the nail up: This is called "proximal subungual onychomycosis." This is the least common type of fungal nail. It is similar to the distal type, but it starts at the cuticle (base of the nail) and slowly spreads toward the nail tip. This type almost always occurs in people with a damaged immune system. It is rare to see debris under the tip of the nail with this condition, unlike distal subungual onychomycosis. The most common cause is T. rubrum and non-dermatophyte molds.
​The American Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Society (AOFAS) offers information on this site as an educational service. The content of FootCareMD, including text, images and graphics, is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to substitute for professional medical advice, diagnoses or treatments. If you need medical advice, use the "Find an Orthopaedic Foot & Ankle Surgeon" tool at the top of this page or contact your primary doctor. 
Griseofulvin (Gris-Peg, Grifulvin V, Griseofulvin Ultramicrosize) is an antibiotic prescribed to treat fungal infections such as ringworm of the body, athlete's foot, barber's itch, and fungal or ringworm of the nails. Side effects, drug interactions, dosing, storage, and pregnancy and breastfeeding information should be reviewed prior to taking this medication.
If you have diabetes, you may have reduced blood circulation and nerve supply in your feet. You're also at greater risk of a bacterial skin infection (cellulitis). So any relatively minor injury to your feet — including a nail fungal infection — can lead to a more serious complication. See your doctor if you have diabetes and think you're developing nail fungus.
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