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Athlete's foot or Tenia pedia is a fungal; infection of the skin affecting skin between the toes and sometimes over the foot. (1)
The cause of this condition is a mould-like fungi called dermatophytes.
These fungi normally exist in the folds of the skin of the foot and their growth is restricted if the foot is clean and dry.
However, if a person wears closed, tight shoes and sweats too much, there is a warm wet atmosphere that allows the fungi to grow.
Plastic shoes are also triggers for growth of these fungi.
Fungi are essentially tiny moulds.
They are parasitic and unlike plants cannot produce food from sunlight (photosynthesis).
They need to feed from broken down tissues of the animal they are infecting. This is what happens in Athlete’s foot. Dermatophytes may affect skin, nail, scalp or hair.
There are essentially two types of fungi that cause Tinea pedis –
Athlete's foot is contagious. It can spread rapidly from an infected person or from infected surfaces, such as towels, shows, socks, wet floors of pools and bathhouses.
Spread can be:
Risk of getting the infection rises with age. Those who have the condition are likely to get it again.
Some people act as carriers who spread the infection but do not get it themselves.
This suggests that there may be a relationship with immune functions and risk of getting the infection.
Those with impaired or decreasing immunity like the elderly are more likely to get the infection. (2, 3)