Athlete’s Foot


What are ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch?

They are skin infections caused by a fungus. These types of fungal infections are also called “tinea.”

Some people call these fungal infections “ringworm,” because they often cause a ring-shaped, red, itchy rash on the skin. But a ring-shaped rash is not always there. People with athlete’s foot might instead have moist, raw skin between their toes, or flaking skin on the bottoms of their feet. People with jock itch often just have a red rash on the groin.

Sometimes, especially in children, the fungus can infect the scalp. On the scalp, the infection can look like a bald spot or a round flaky patch of skin.

How did I get a fungal infection? 

You can catch fungal infections from anyone who is infected. You can also catch them from an infected dog or cat. Plus, you can pick up the infections from places where the fungus might be, such as:

A shower stall

The locker room floor

The area near a pool

If you have a fungal infection on one part of your body, you can also spread it to other parts. For instance, men with a fungal infection on their feet sometimes spread it to their groin.

How are fungal infections treated? 

The treatment for a fungal infection depends on which body part is affected. Dr.Paul Kattupalli treats fungal infections based on their location, size and spread.  If you have a fungal infection on your scalp, you must take pills that will kill the fungus. Treatment for scalp infections usually lasts 1 to 3 months.

If you have a fungal infection on your feet, groin, or another body part, you probably will not need pills. Instead, you can use a special gel, cream, lotion, or powder that kills fungus. Treatment with these products lasts 2 to 4 weeks.

If you have a fungal infection on your groin and on your feet, you must treat both infections at the same time. If you do not, the infection on your feet can spread to your groin again.

How do I keep from getting a fungal infection again? 

If someone in your home has had a fungal infection on their scalp:

Get rid of any combs, brushes, barrettes, or other hair products that could have the fungus on them

Make sure Dr.Paul checks everyone in the house for a fungal infection

If the fungal infection might have come from a pet, have it checked by a vet

Here are some other general tips on how to prevent fungal infections:

Do not share unwashed clothes, sports gear, or towels with other people

Always wear slippers or sandals when at the gym, pool, or other public areas. That includes public showers.

Wash with soap and shampoo after sports or exercise

Change your socks and underwear at least once a day

Keep your skin clean and dry. Always dry yourself well after swimming or showering.

More on Ring Worm

Despite its name, ringworm is not caused by a worm. Ringworm is actually an infection caused by a fungus. It is called ringworm because it can cause a ring-shaped, red, itchy rash on the skin. Ringworm is also called tinea.

There are several different types of ringworm infections, which are named from the body-part that is affected:

Tinea capitis affects the top of the head, or scalp, and is found mostly in children

Tinea pedis affects the feet, and is also called “athlete’s foot”

Tinea cruris affects the groin, and is also called “jock itch”

Tinea faciei affects the face

Tinea barbae affects the beard area

Tinea manuum affects the hands

Tinea corporis is the catch-all term for tinea infections on other body surfaces

SCALP INFECTION (TINEA CAPITIS) — Tinea capitis usually causes a scaly, red rash that can lead to bald patches on the scalp. It usually affects children and is the most common cause of hair loss among children. It only rarely affects adults.

Scalp infections are treated with prescription antifungal medicines that you take by mouth. Topical treatments (lotions or creams) for tinea infections do not work on scalp infections. Treatment usually requires taking the medication once or twice per day for 2 to 12 weeks depending on the type of medication given and how well the infection responds to treatment.

To prevent tinea capitis from recurring, it’s important to get rid of any combs, brushes, barrettes, or other hair care products that could be harboring the fungus. Family members should also be checked and treated, if necessary.

You can carry and spread the fungus but show no signs of infection; this person is called a carrier. In cases where the family pet is suspected to be the source of the infection, it’s also important to have the animal treated.

If your child is being treated for tinea capitis with oral antifungal drugs, s/he can still go to school. There is no need to shave your child’s head or cut their hair.

ATHLETE’S FOOT (TINEA PEDIS) — Tinea pedis causes the skin on the feet – often between the toes – to become itchy, red, cracked, tender, and scaly. Sometimes it also causes blisters to form. People who have tinea pedis often also have the infection on the palms of their hands, in their nails, or on their groin.

Unlike tinea capitis, tinea pedis responds to most topical antifungal treatments, many of which are available without a prescription. The cream/gel/lotion/powder is usually applied once or twice daily for four weeks. In severe or long-lasting cases, your healthcare provider may suggest an oral antifungal drug (which is available only by prescription).

To improve comfort and reduce the chances of repeat infection, it is a good idea to use antifungal foot powders, both on the feet and in the shoes, and to wear open shoes when feasible, at least while the feet heal.

JOCK ITCH (TINEA CRURIS) — Tinea cruris usually starts by causing a red, itchy rash in the groin, the crease where the leg meets the trunk. From there, it can spread onto the thighs and toward the buttocks or anus. It is more common in men than in women, and it often surfaces during warm or hot weather, after a bout of heavy sweating. The most common source of this infection is the person’s own tinea pedis (athlete’s foot).

Most cases of tinea cruris can be successfully treated with an antifungal cream/lotion/gel, some of which are available without a prescription. The treatment is usually applied once or twice per day for three to four weeks. It’s essential, though, to treat tinea pedis (athlete’s foot) at the same time; otherwise the groin infection will likely recur. During treatment, avoid tight-fitting clothes.

BODY INFECTION (TINEA CORPORIS) — Tinea corporis is an infection that appears on a part of the body other than those listed above. Tinea corporis often develops when a tinea infection is transferred from another part of the body. It can also happen to parents who are caring for children with tinea capitis. It appears as a circular or oval scaly area. The outer edge is usually red and slightly raised while the center is flat and skin colored.

Tinea corporis usually responds to treatment with an antifungal cream/gel/lotion once or twice per day for one to two weeks. Athletes who have tinea corporis and who have close body contact (eg, wrestlers) may not be allowed to compete until the infection has cleared.

PREVENTING RINGWORM — To prevent ringworm and other skin infections:

Do not share clothing, sports equipment, or towels with other people.

When at the gym, local pool, or other public areas (including the shower), always wear slippers or sandals.

Wash thoroughly with soap and shampoo after any sport involving skin-to-skin contact.

Avoid tight-fitting clothing. Change your socks and underwear at least once a day.

Keep your skin clean and dry. Always dry yourself completely after bathing.

If you have athlete’s foot, put your socks on before your underwear so that the infection does not spread to other parts of your body.

Take your pet to the vet if it has patches of missing hair or a rash. That could be a sign of a tinea infection.

If you or someone in your family has symptoms of ringworm, make sure s/he is treated right away. Otherwise, the infection may spread.

If you need treatment for Ring worm or any other fungal infection, please visit Dr.Paul’s Clinic. 

Image Credit: By James Heilman, MD – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,