Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the feet. Fungi thrive in warm, moist locations like locker rooms, showers, and swimming pools. Because of athletes' frequency in these locations, it is common for people who play sports to get athlete's foot, and this commonality gave the infection its name.
Three types of athlete's foot are all caused by the same fungus and differentiated by the location on the foot where the rash occurs. While an athlete's foot starts at one of the three common areas, it can quickly spread to cover the entire foot if not treated. Fungal infections are very contagious and can extend to other people and other areas of your body, causing fungal nail infections, jock itch, or even ringworm.
The most common type of athlete's foot is a toe web infection. This type of athlete's foot usually begins between the fourth and fifth toes but quickly spreads between all of the toes. The rash becomes itchy and scaly and will start to peel and crack once the fungi have settled into their new home. When the infection begins to break, it can easily harbor a bacterial infection, which will need further treatment. Bacterial infections can cause additional pain and discomfort and make them more challenging to treat the conditions. The fungal infection causes itching and burning, and adding a bacterial infection usually causes a foul odor.
A moccasin type infection typically starts on the heel of your foot but will spread very quickly to cover the entire bottom of your foot. Once the bottom of your foot is covered, the skin will become very thick and even crack. As with the toe web infection, cracking can allow bacterial infections to join the party, complicating and possibly lengthening your treatment time. Moccasin-type diseases are long-lasting, so it is essential to keep the condition as clean as possible until wholly eliminated. After covering the bottom of your foot, this type of athlete's foot has been known to infect the toenails quickly. Fungal nail infections require different treatments, but it is essential to treat all fungi as soon as possible to avoid a recurrence of the conditions.
The last and least common type of athlete's foot is a vesicular type infection. Typically, this type of athlete's foot will begin with a sudden outbreak of many fluid-filled blisters under the skin, usually on the bottom of the foot. The blisters are excruciating to walk on and will often time burst while walking. This type of athlete's foot is the most common type to include a bacterial infection because of the open wounds left by the blisters.
All three types of athlete's foot are itchy, embarrassing, highly contagious, and sometimes painful. As much as you need to itch, do not itch, as this can quickly spread the infection under your fingernails to cause a fungal nail infection.