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Athlete’s foot — also called tinea pedis — is a contagious fungal infection that affects the skin on the feet. It can also spread to the toenails and the hands. The fungal infection is called athlete’s foot because it’s commonly seen in athletes.
Athlete’s foot isn’t serious, but sometimes it’s hard to cure. If you have diabetes or a weakened immune system and suspect you have athlete’s foot, you should call your doctor right away.
Athlete’s foot occurs when the tinea fungus grows on the feet. You can catch the fungus through direct contact with an infected person, or by touching surfaces contaminated with the fungus. The fungus thrives in warm, moist environments. It’s commonly found in showers, on locker room floors, and around swimming pools.
A doctor may diagnose athlete’s foot by the symptoms. Or, a doctor may order a skin test if they aren’t sure a fungal infection is causing your symptoms.
A skin lesion potassium hydroxide exam is the most common test for athlete’s foot. A doctor scrapes off a small area of infected skin and places it in potassium hydroxide. The KOH destroys normal cells and leaves the fungal cells untouched so they are easy to see under a microscope.
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