Athlete's foot (or Tinea Pedis) is a very common condition caused by a fungal infection of the skin. In theory, any part of the body may get a fungal infection of this sort, but the feet are particularly susceptible because the environment feet undergo (the dark, damp, warm environment in the shoes) is conducive for fungus to develop. It is particularly common in people who are very active, whose feet are enclosed in work boots all day (especially rubber boots), or whose feet perspire a lot. The condition may also involve the nails, a condition known as tinea unguium or onychomycosis.
There are several skin conditions that may mimic athlete's foot, including psoriasis, eczema and contact dermatitis. Diagnosis is usually made by visual exam, but there are some lab tests that can be used to definitively diagnose the condition.
Once the diagnosis has been made, the condition must be treated. In cases of excessive perspiration, simply drying out the skin may be enough to kill the fungus responsible for athlete's foot. In order to actually kill the fungus, however, anti-fungal medications are necessary.
There are many anti-fungals available, including prescription and over-the-counter medications that are applied to the skin, with the largest family of antifungal medication being the " -azole" group--(econazole, tioconazole, miconazole, e.g.) Antifungal medications come many forms, including creams, liquids, powders, sprays, lotions, foot soaks, oils. While there are several types of fungus that may cause athlete's foot, these topical medications usually work well on most of them. When topical medications fail, however, prescription oral medications may be necessary.
Often the fungus must be killed in the shoes as well, (usually with antifungal powders and exposing the shoes and innersoles to sunlight), or the patient may become re-infected.
Controlling moisture content in the skin, drying the feet well, changing socks regularly and alternating shoes may all help control the condition long term.