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What causes athlete's foot?

Dr. Jeanne Morrison, PhD
Family Practitioner

Athlete's foot is a fungal infection caused by exposure to dermatophytes, a group of fungi. The body reacts to the infection by making more skin cells then normal. That excess skin leads to scaling in the affected area.

Dr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Cardiology (Cardiovascular Disease)
Athlete's foot is the most common fungal infection of mankind. Learn more about this topic in this video by Dr. Oz.


James P. Ioli, DPM
Podiatric Medicine
You don't have to be an athlete to develop athlete's foot, or tinea pedis, one of the most common types of fungal infection, affecting one in five adults. The condition, which affects men more often than women, is known as athlete's foot because walking around barefoot in a locker room is a good way to become infected. But you can also come in contact with the fungus in store dressing rooms, swimming pool changing areas, or any place that combines dampness and a lot of foot traffic. You can also be infected by improperly cleaned instruments used in a pedicure either at a commercial salon or at home. Whatever the source, fungi thrive in dark, damp environments -- for example, a sweaty foot in a shoe.
Donna Hill Howes, RN
Family Medicine

Several types of fungi called dermatophytes are to blame for athlete's foot. These fungi grow on and infect the skin, causing the skin to produce extra cells. As the skin becomes thicker, it begins to develop the scaly appearance associated with athlete's foot. Development can begin through direct contact with the fungi, whether through another person or an object or surface that has been in contact with an infected person.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.