Athlete's foot is a fungal infection of the feet, which is otherwise known as tinea pedis.
Athlete's foot causes a flaky, sometimes itchy, and sometimes red rash between the toes and over the rest of the nearby foot. In most people it is confined to the spaces between the toes, but occasionally it spreads and affects more of the foot. In some people the skin becomes very sore and even bleeds a little.
Several fungus varieties cause athlete's foot, and sometimes more than one is present at the same time. The condition may be complicated by a secondary infection with bacteria which take advantage of the damaged skin.
Diagnosis is usually made from the visual appearance, but if necessary skin scrapings, with a few cells of superficial skin, are sent to the laboratory where a fungus can be detected.
There are creams, powders and sprays available, which can mostly be bought over the counter. These work by killing the fungus and need to be applied until the skin seems to be back to normal, and then for a further two weeks to eradicate all the remaining fungal spores.
The most effective chemical treatments these days are the imidazoles, such as miconazole and clotrimazole. You should speak to the pharmacist to select an appropriate treatment for you. If you still have problems see your doctor, who will make sure the diagnosis is correct and may well offer an alternative type of treatment.
It is said that you should dry well between your toes after baths or showers. The feet are certainly more prone to athlete's foot when they are warm and moist, so it seems to occur more frequently in people who wear artificial soles and especially trainers and sports shoes. It helps to spend time with bare feet when you can.
Some people seem more prone to athlete's foot than others, and it does not spread round a family like wildfire, so there is probably a personal predisposition to develop it.