Athlete's foot

Synonyms: Tinea pedis, Fungal infection of the foot

Medical Specialties: Dermatology, Family practice, Internal medicine

Clinical Definition

Athlete's foot, or tinea pedis, is a contagious infection caused by a fungus that thrives in warm, moist environments. Symptoms include erythema, vesicles and burning. Diagnosis is by clinical exam, biopsy or examination of the skin culture. Treatment includes self-care with over-the-counter antifungal products, good hygiene or prescribing of antifungal medications. 

In Our Own Words

Athlete's foot, known medically as tinea pedis, is a contagious foot infection that can be spread by direct contact or contact with infected items like shoes, stockings, shower or pool surfaces. Its cause is a fungus that typically grows between the toes but can also thrive on the heels, palms and between the fingers. Symptoms include red, itchy or burning skin with cracking, flaking or oozing blisters.


Athlete's foot is diagnosed simply by your doctor's exam or by taking a culture or biopsy or doing other tests on the lesions. Over-the-counter anti-fungal products can help, as can paying attention to hygiene and keeping feet clean and dry. If self-care does not help, anti-fungal medications can be prescribed.

Side Effects
  • Red, itchy skin
  • Stinging or burning pain
  • Blisters or crusting and flaking
Share this article
  • Harvard Medical School. "Medical Dictionary of Health Terms." 2013. Accessed November 2013.
  • University of Maryland Medical Center. "Athlete's foot." Medical Encyclopedia. May 2013. Accessed November 2013.
Keep Reading

Investigate your bodys signs and signals.
Try Symptom Checker