What Is Fungal Infection?
These are skin infections caused by a fungus. Millions of fungal species thrive in the dirt, on plants, on household surfaces, and on your skin.
Fungal skin infections might cause irritation, scaly skin, redness, itching, swelling, blisters, etc., anywhere on the body. Many types of over-the-counter medications can help treat fungal skin infections. However, you need to visit a doctor if infection does not improve, worsens, or recurs. Fungal infections are of different types:
Athlete’s Foot: also called tinea pedis, involves the foot. They grow best in warm, moist areas such as shoes, socks, swimming pools, locker rooms, and public showers. Is more common in people who wear tight shoes, do not change sweaty socks, and use public baths/pools. Signs include peeling, cracking, and scaly feet; blisters; redness; itching; and burning.
Jock Itch: a red, itchy rash, often ring-shaped. Occurs in warm, moist areas such as genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. It is mildly contagious, and can spread through direct or indirect contact. Symptoms include itching, chafing, burning, redness, flaking, peeling, or cracking of skin on the groin or thigh.
Ringworm: also called tinea corporis. Occurs as a red, circular, flat sore, with scaly skin, and a winding, worm-like edge. It can spread through direct contact with infected people or animals or objects. Heat and humidity aggravates it.
Yeast Infection: non-contagious infections, caused by Candida species. Most common in warm, moist, creased areas, including armpits and groin, and common in obese or diabetic individuals. It can cause infections in nails, vagina, or mouth (oral thrush). Signs of yeast infection of the skin include rashes, patches oozing clear fluid, pimples, itching, and burning; of the nails include painful swelling of nail beds and a white or yellow nail; of the mouth include white painful patches on the tongue and inside cheeks; and of the vaginal skin include white or yellow vaginal discharge, itching, redness, and burning sensation.
Who Gets It?
Obese people, anyone consuming antibiotics or with a weakened immune system or cancer or diabetes or HIV, organ or stem cell transplant patients, and hospitalized patients are at higher risk of developing this infection.
Several lifestyle factors increase the risk of fungal infections: warm or wet surroundings; excessive sweating; sharing clothing, shoes, towels, or bedding; ill hygiene; wearing unclean clothes, in particular socks/undergarments; wearing tight clothing or footwear; activities involving frequent skin-to-skin contact; and contact with infected animals.
How Is Fungal Infection Diagnosed?
Your doctor might suspect a fungal infection if a red, irritated, or scaly rash is noted in one of the commonly affected areas. Microscopy or microbiological culture of skin scrapings might be recommended.
- Athlete’s Foot: Your doctor may scrape off a bit of skin and look at it under a microscope to check for a different condition.
- Jock Itch: Usually diagnosed by what it looks like and where it is on your body, followed by microscopic examination of skin samples.
- Ringworm: Diagnosed based on symptoms and microscopic examination of skin sample. You might be asked if you’ve come into contact with infected people or animals.
- Yeast Infection: Medical history and physical examination will often be the primary step, followed by microscopic examination of skin samples.
How Is It Treated?
Typically treated with antifungal drugs, usually with topical drugs or pills to be consumed by mouth. Antifungal drugs are available as over-the-counter treatments or prescription medications, as creams or ointments, pills, powders, sprays, and shampoos. Corticosteroids might be prescribed to relieve inflammation and itching.
You have to keep the affected areas dry, by wearing loose clothes, applying powder, or wearing open-toed shoes.
Different types of fungal infections might be treated as follows:
- Athlete’s Foot: Antifungal medicine to apply on skin or, in severe cases, to consume
- Jock Itch: Over-the-counter antifungal medicines; prescription cream in severe cases
- Ringworm: Antifungal medications for topical application (clotrimazole and miconazole); prescription cream in severe cases
- Medicated creams for most skin yeast infections; medicated suppositories, for vaginal infections; and medicated mouthwash or lozenges, for oral thrush
- Resistance to antifungal treatment