Risk factors and complications associated with athlete’s foot

Risk factors and complications associated with athlete’s foot

What risk factors are associated with athlete’s foot?

Anyone is vulnerable to a fungal infection such as athlete’s foot. Certain behaviours can increase risk. These include:

  • Woman relaxing barefoot in sauna.Walking barefoot in communal areas where dermatophytes (pathogenic fungi) thrive.
  • Wearing damp socks, stockings or leggings, as well as tightfitting closed-toe shoes.
  • Wearing the same shoes and socks for extended periods of time.
  • Contact with surfaces that have been touched by a person with a fungal infection, such as rugs or mats, clothing, shoes, towels or bed linen.
  • Feet which are hot, wet or sweaty for long periods of time.

Other potential risk factors include:

  • Minor nail or skin injuries on the feet can increase risk for infections.
  • Weakened or impaired immune systems, such as those with HIV-AIDS infections. (14)
  • Pre-existing conditions such as diabetes or eczema may be more prone to fungal infections with increased risk of complications including things such as ulcers.
  • Pedicure environments - may be contaminated and can spread infection.

Athlete's foot complications

The biggest complication associated with athlete’s foot relates to poor treatment or lack of treatment. Left on its own, fungi can spread to other parts of the body, including the hands, legs, toenails and fingernails, as well as other people.

Fungi does not typically spread too deeply within the body (i.e. it is not likely to affect the body’s internal organs or bloodstream). It does, however thrive in skin, nails and hair (keratin). Spreading can result in the following:

  • Onychomycosis or tinea unquium (infection of the nails)
  • Tinea cruris or ‘jock itch’ (infection of the groin area – genitals, buttocks and inner thighs)
  • Tinea corporis (infection of the skin in other areas of the body)
  • Secondary bacterial infections (as a result of bacteria and yeast causing inflammation, fever, pus drainage, swelling and pain)




14. Pubmed Health. June 2018. Athlete's Foot: Overview: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0072733/ [Accessed 29.08.2018]

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