Athlete's foot is a very common skin infection of the bottom of the feet caused by fungus. The fungus that most commonly causes athlete's foot is called Trichophyton. When the feet or other areas of the body stay moist, warm, and become irritated, fungus can thrive and infect the upper layers of the skin. Fungal infections can occur almost anywhere on the body, including the scalp, trunk, extremities (arms and legs), hands, feet, nails, vagina, mouth, and groin.
Athlete's foot is caused by the ringworm fungus ("tinea" in medical jargon). Athlete's foot is also called tinea pedis. The fungus that causes athlete's foot can be found on many locations, including floors in gyms, locker rooms, swimming pools, nail salons, airport security lines, and in socks and clothing. The fungus can also be spread directly from person to person or by contact with these objects. Most people acquire fungus on the feet from walking barefoot on areas where someone else with athlete's foot has walked. Some people are simply more prone to this condition while others seem relatively resistant to contracting it. It has been called "jungle rot" by those serving in wars, including the Vietnam War.
However, without proper growing conditions (a warm, moist environment), the fungus may not easily infect the skin. Up to 70% of the population may have athlete's foot at some time during their lives. Some individuals are inherently more prone to recurrences during their lifetime.
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