Fungal infections on skin are fairly common among children and adults. Here, we have information about the various types of fungal infections.
Fungal infections, as the name suggests, are caused by certain types of fungi. Many types of fungi reside in our skin and most are usually harmless. An infection can occur if the fungus undergoes a change, if the individual has had an extended dose of antibiotics, or the immune system is weakened. Fungal infections target our skin because some fungi thrive on keratin, a protein found abundantly in the skin, hair, and nails. These infections are superficial, found only on the top layer of the skin, and can sometimes be contagious. They are caused by two types of fungi: dermatophytes and yeast.
Types of Fungal Skin Infections
Also known as tinea pedis, it affects the foot, and in some cases, the toenails. Men are more affected by this infection than women. The skin between the toes becomes swollen, red, and scaly and can result in intense itching and burning. Athlete’s foot is contagious and the most common places where you can get contaminated are swimming pools, saunas, and public shower rooms. If not treated properly, it can even result in painful blisters. To prevent this infection, always wear flip-flops around swimming areas.
Avoid walking barefoot. Change into a fresh, dry pair of socks if your shoes and socks get wet. Most fungi live in moist areas of the skin. So make sure you dry the skin between your toes thoroughly. To treat athlete’s foot, keep your feet and toes clean and dry. Antifungal medications can treat athlete’s foot effectively.
Referred to as tinea cruris, the fungus usually affects the groin area, inner thighs, genitals, and buttocks. Symptoms include redness in the groin area, itching and peeling of the skin, and the affected individual experiences raised, ring-shaped rashes over the skin. Jock itch occurs mainly in wet climate and summers. If you suffer from jock itch, wash and clean the affected area with a soft towel, and change your clothes, especially underwear, as frequently as possible, especially if you get wet or happen to sweat a lot. The fungus which causes jock itch flourishes in warm and wet areas on the skin. Affected individuals can use antifungal creams and sprays to get rid of the problem.
Ringworm of the Body
This infection can affect any part of the body, but it’s the stomach and limbs that usually get affected. Also referred to as tinea corporis, it is not caused by a worm as the name may suggest, but by fungi. It results in reddish, flat or elevated patches on the skin which can spread easily, usually from the center. Domestic animals are the most common source of infection. Topical over-the-counter antifungal creams and sprays can help to heal the problem.
Ringworm of the Scalp
This fungal infection affects the scalp and is also called tinea capitis. It is highly contagious and can spread easily through infected scalps, especially among children. The symptoms include intense itching of the skin and inflammation of the scalp, sometimes leading to hair loss. Tinea capitis is more commonly seen in people of African and Central American origin. This infection can sometimes be mistaken for severe dandruff. Oral antifungal medications are usually used to treat this condition.
Ringworm of the Nails
Fungal nail infections are referred to as tinea unguium. Nails become brittle and develop crumbling edges. Loose, malformed nails can also result in this type of infection. Toenails are more susceptible to this fungal infection, but this condition can affect fingernails too. Topical over-the-counter creams are not effective to treat tinea unguium. Doctors usually prescribe oral tablets. This condition does not heal quickly, with toenails taking a much longer time to heal than fingernails.
Also termed as tinea versicolor, this infection causes dark patches on very fair skin, and light patches on dark skin. It mostly affects children and young adults. Hot, humid climate is favorable for the yeast to grow and this infection can cause excessive itching and sweating. Topical antifungal ointments are the best way to deal with this infection. Wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothes to prevent this infection.
This infection occurs mainly in skin folds, mainly where skin tends to remain moist. Candida albicans is the yeast which causes intertrigo. Red, shiny rashes with scaly edges appear on the folds of the skin, which can spread to the surrounding skin folds. Sometimes you may see bumpy patches on the skin with a pus-like discharge. As with most other fungal infections, topical antifungal ointments and powders can get rid of this ailment. Keep yourself clean and dry, especially in areas with skin folds. Do not wear tight, ill-fitting clothes and change your clothes often if you are prone to intense sweating.
A very common infection, this is also caused by candida albicans. The most common areas affected are the mouth, inside of the cheeks, and tongue, and women may also suffer from vaginal thrush. Oral thrush mainly affects children and results in soft, white, patchy sores, which turn red and can even bleed if rubbed. It usually disappears on its own, or you may be asked to rinse your mouth with a medicated, antifungal mouthwash by your doctor.
Vaginal thrush symptoms include a yellowish discharge, and inflammation and itching of the affected area. Antifungal suppositories or lotions are usually prescribed in such cases. People with diabetes and high sugar levels are prone to thrush. The excess sugar found in the saliva is ideal for the yeast to grow. The best way to prevent thrush is to decrease your blood sugar level.
Fungal infections are not a serious skin condition, and most go away with the use of antifungal sprays and creams. But people who have a weak immune system, a history of fungal infections, are obese, suffer from diabetes, and have taken or are taking antibiotics or steroids are more susceptible to fungal infections. Even people who sweat a lot and live in places with damp, hot weather can fall prey to such infections. Moist skin favors the growth of yeast and fungi, so be sure to wear dry, loose-fitting clothes, and not remain in wet clothes for extended duration of time.
Maintain personal hygiene, do not wear tight shoes, disinfect used items, and do not share personal belongings like hair brushes, pillows or hats. Often, these infections look like normal skin rashes. If you are not sure whether the rash you have developed is a fungal infection, do not take any over-the-counter medication without first consulting your health care provider. He can make the right diagnosis and prescribe the necessary medicine. So stay clean, follow a health regime, and steer clear of fungal infections.