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Know the Difference: Athlete’s Foot vs. Eczema

Telling the difference between athlete’s foot and eczema can be a difficult task for those looking to diagnose their increasingly worrisome feet as both conditions can trigger identical symptoms.

Symptoms of both conditions include:

  • Scaly skin with red patches
  • Blisters
  • Cracked skin
  • Itching or burning skin

Luckily, although athlete s foot and eczema may have nearly identical symptoms, the two skin conditions have very different causes. Eczema is a noninfectious, noncontagious, inflamed skin condition that is related to allergies, irritations, and emotional stress.

Athlete’s foot, meanwhile, is an infectious, contagious, inflamed skin condition that is caused by a fungal infection of the skin. Unlike eczema, which can also affect the hands, the threat of athlete’s foot is limited to only the lower extremities.

At Delray Beach Podiatry, Dr. Ian S. Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, has treated numerous patients for both eczema and athlete’s food.

Although it’s always best to consult a podiatrist to be completely certain exactly what condition you are dealing with, below is some helpful information that Dr. Goldbaum believes can help patients discern between eczema and athlete’s foot prior to their visit.

Athlete’s Foot

Athlete’s foot, also known as tinea pedis, is a common fungal infection that affects the sole of the foot and usually begins between the toes.

There are a variety of fungi that cause athlete’s foot, and these can be contracted in many locations, including gyms, locker rooms, swimming pools, nail salons, and from contaminated socks and clothing. In many cases, the fungus that causes athlete’s foot is contracted from walking barefoot in areas where someone else with athlete’s foot has walked.

If your toe nails are yellow and thick, it more likely that you have a fungal infection rather than eczema. If the skin is white and scaly in between the fourth and fifth toes, you probably have a fungus.

If your athlete’s foot is mild, an over-the-counter anti-fungal ointment, lotion, powder or spray should be enough to clear up your infection. However, if your athlete’s foot doesn’t respond to over-the-counter treatments, you may need a prescription-strength medication to apply to your feet. Severe infections may require antifungal pills such as terbinafine (Lamisil), itraconazole (Sporanox), or fluconazole (Diflucan).

Treatment for athlete’s foot should generally be continued for four weeks or at least one week after all of the skin symptoms have cleared.


Eczema is a rash that has an appearance and symptoms similar to athlete’s foot. It can cause intense itching, redness, edema, discharge, dryness, flaking, blistering, cracking, bleeding, oozing, and crusting.

Unlike athlete’s foot, however, eczema typically does not follow a very specific pattern in between the toes or along the sides of the feet.

One form of eczema that tends to occur on the tips or sides of the toes, known as dyshidrotic eczema, is intensely itchy and produces red, scaly areas of cracked skin with tiny blisters.

An important part of eczema treatment is the regular use of topical skin creams and ointments to re-hydrate skin, balance skin’s pH, and act as a protective barrier against dryness or sweat. Topical corticosteroids may also be needed to quell inflammation.

Follow Delray Beach Podiatry on Twitter @Delray_Podiatry

The content on this website is for informational purposes only. Do not rely or act upon information from without seeking professional medical advice. If you live in South Florida and would like a consultation with Dr. Ian Goldbaum, a podiatric physician and surgeon with over 30 years of experience, please see our contact information below:


16244 S. Military Trail #290, Delray Beach, FL 33445



8198 Jog Road #100, Boynton Beach, FL 33472



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