By Mayo Clinic staff

Introduction

Athlete’s foot is a fungal infection that develops in the moist areas between your toes and sometimes on other parts of your foot. Athlete’s foot usually causes itching, stinging and burning.

Also called tinea pedis, athlete’s foot is closely related to other fungal infections with similar names, which include:

  • Ringworm of the body (tinea corporis). This form causes a red, scaly ring or circle of rash on the top layer of your skin.
  • Jock itch (tinea cruris). This form affects your genitals, inner upper thighs and buttocks.
  • Ringworm of the scalp (tinea capitis). This form is most common in children and involves red, itchy patches on the scalp, leaving bald patches.

Symptoms

If athlete’s foot is severe or doesn’t respond to over-the-counter medicine, you may need a prescription-strength topical medication (lotion, powder, spray or ointment) or an oral medication (pill, capsule or tablet). Many options are available, including:

  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)
  • Clotrimazole (Lotrimin)
  • Miconazole (Monistat-Derm)

If your fungal infection is severe or doesn’t respond to topical medicine, your doctor may give you a prescription oral medication. Oral medications include:

  • Itraconazole (Sporanox)
  • Fluconazole (Diflucan)
  • Terbinafine (Lamisil)

Side effects from oral medications include gastrointestinal upset, rash and abnormal liver function. Taking other medications, such as antacid therapies for ulcer disease or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), may interfere with the absorption of these drugs. Oral medications for athlete’s foot may alter the effectiveness of warfarin, an anticoagulant drug that decreases the clotting ability of your blood.

Your doctor may prescribe an oral antibiotic if you have an accompanying bacterial infection. In addition, your doctor may recommend wet dressings, steroid ointments, compresses or vinegar soaks to help clear up blisters or soggy skin.

Diagnosis

Your doctor may take skin scrapings or fluid samples from your foot to view under a microscope to identify a fungus. If the sample shows a fungus, an antifungal medication is the usual treatment. If the test is negative but your doctor still suspects that you have athlete’s foot, a sample may be sent to a laboratory to determine whether it will grow fungus under the right conditions. This test is known as a culture. Your doctor may also order a culture if your condition doesn’t respond to treatment.