Fungal Skin Infections

As the name suggests, fungal infections are caused by some types of fungi. Several types of fungi inhabit in the skin and usually most of them are harmless. If the fungus undergoes a change, an infection may develop. If a person uses antibiotics for a prolonged period or if the immune system becomes weak, one may develop these infections. Fungal infections afflict skin because certain fungi thrive on the keratin. Keratin is a protein which is found in nails, skin and hair. These fungal skin infections are superficial and found on upper most layer of the skin. Sometimes, these can be contagious. These are basically caused by two types of fungi – yeast and dermatophytes.

Fungal Skin Infections:
Yeast Infections:

Intertrigo: Intertrigo mainly develops in the folds of the skin, mainly where the skin remains moist. This infection is caused by Candida albicans. Red and shiny skin rashes with scaly edges appear on skin folds. These may spread to the nearby skin folds. In some cases, you may observe bumpy skin patches with pus discharge. Topical antifungal powders and ointments are used for treating this condition. Avoid wearing ill-fitting and tight fitting clothes.

Pityriasis Versicolor: This is also called tinea versicolor. It causes light patches on dark skin and dark patches on fair skin. This infection afflicts young adults and children. This yeast grows in hot and humid climate. Also, it causes excessive sweating and itching. The best way to treat this infection is to apply topical fungal ointments. To prevent this infection, one must wear loose-fitting and comfortable dresses.

Thrush: Thrush is the most common skin infection. Candida Albicans causes this. It mainly afflicts the mouth, inside of cheeks and tongue. Also, women may suffer from vaginal thrush. Oral thrush afflicts children and leads to soft, white and patchy sores. These sores turn red and if rubbed, they may bleed also. This infection disappears on its own. The doctor may prescribe to use medicated, antifungal mouthwash for rinsing the mouth. Itching and inflammation of afflicted area and yellow discharge are the symptoms of vaginal thrush. Antifungal lotions or suppositories are generally suggested in those cases. Those with high sugar levels and diabetes are more susceptible to thrush. The excessive sugar in saliva is ideal for the yeast growth. Decrease in blood sugar level is the best way to prevent this infection.

Dermatophyte Infections:
Jock itch: This is also called tinea cruris. This generally afflicts buttocks, genitals, inner thighs and groin area. Itching, redness in groin area and peeling of skin are the symptoms of this condition. One may also observe raised, ring-shaped rashes on the skin. This infection develops mainly during summer and wet climate. People suffering from this infection must wash the affected area and clean it with soft towel. It is best to change clothes, particularly underwear frequently. The fungi which cause this infection thrive in wet and warm areas on skin. Antifungal sprays and creams are prescribed for the infected people.

Athlete’s foot: It is also called tinea pedis. This infection afflicts foot and sometimes, toenails. Men are more prone to this infection compared to women. In this condition, the skin between toes becomes red, swollen and scaly, resulting in intense itching. This is a contagious disease. This infection is common near contaminated places like public shower rooms, swimming pools and saunas. If left untreated, it results in painful blisters. It is always better to wear flip-flops around the swimming areas to avoid this infection. Do not walk barefoot. Do not wear wet shoes and socks for a long period. Often fungi live in moist skin areas. Ensure that you dry the skin between the toes. Keep the feet and toes always clean and dry. Doctors prescribe antifungal medicines to treat this condition.

Ringworm of nails: These infections are also called tinea unguium. In this condition, nails become brittle and develop crumbling edges. Toenails are more susceptible to this infection, but it may affect fingernails also. Topical over the counter creams are not effective, hence doctors prescribe oral tablets. Toenails take long time to heal compared to fingernails.

Ringworm of scalp: It afflicts the scalp and is known as tinea capitis. This infection is highly contagious. This may spread easily through the infected scalps, particularly among children. Inflammation of the scalp and intense itching of skin, leading to hair loss are the signs of this condition. This infection is common in Central American and African origin. Sometimes, it can be mistaken for dandruff. Usually oral antifungal medicines are used for treating this condition.

Ringworm of the body: It can affect any body part, but limbs and stomach get affected usually. This is also called tinea corporis. As the name suggests, it is not caused by worm, but by fungi. This causes reddish, elevated or flat patches on skin that can spread easily. This infection is mainly caused by domestic animals. Topical over the counter antifungal sprays and creams help in treating this infection.

Fungal skin infections are not a serious problem. These go away with antifungal creams and sprays. People with history of fungal infections, obese, diabetes patients, people who are taking or have taken steroids or antibiotics and weak immune system are more susceptible to these fungal infections. Also people who live in hot, damp weather and those who sweat a lot can suffer from these infections. Moist skin helps yeast and fungi to grow, hence make sure to wear dry and loose-fitting clothes.

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