DermatologyInfectious Diseases / Bacteria / VirusesSexual Health / STDs

Fungal infections: Causes and treatments

Throughout much of the natural world, fungal infections are common. In humans, when an invading fungus takes over a part of the body and is too much for the immune system to manage, fungal infections occur.

It is possible for fungi to live in the air, soil, water, and plants. There are some fungi that live naturally in the human body.

There are beneficial fungi and dangerous fungi, like many microbes. They can be difficult to destroy when dangerous fungi enter the body, since they can live in the atmosphere and re-infect the person attempting to get better.

We look at who is most at risk of having a fungal infection in this article and what the signs and treatment options for certain common types are.

Symptoms

A young girl suffering from fungi infection
Common symptoms of many fungal infections are skin changes, redness, and itching.

The symptoms of a fungal infection will depend on the type, but the following are typical symptoms:

  • Changes in the skin, like red and probably skin cracking or peeling
  • Itching

Read on to learn more about some common forms of fungal infection, their symptoms, and the options for treatment.

Types

All common forms of fungal infections include the following conditions.

Athlete’s foot

A common fungal infection that impacts the foot is the tinea pedis or athlete’s foot.

Athlete’s foot is usually associated with sports and athletes because the fungus grows properly in warm, moist environments, such as socks and shoes, sports equipment, and locker rooms.

In fact, an athlete’s foot can affect everyone. This is most prevalent in warmer climates and summer time, where it can quickly multiply.

Symptoms

Athlete’s foot

Athlete’s foot symptoms can differ slightly from person to person. Symptoms that are classic include:

  • Redness in the affected region or blisters
  • The skin infected may be soft, or layers can begin to break down.
  • Body peeling or cracking
  • the skin may scale and peel away
  • itching, stinging, or burning sensations in the infected area

Diagnosis, prevention, and recovery

Not all itchy feet are the outcome of athlete’s foot. Typically, doctors diagnose the infection by scraping the skin off a person and examining it under a microscope for signs of any fungus.

There are a few different fungi that can lead to the foot of an athlete. Depending on the particular fungus infecting the skin, the infection can act differently.

Athlete’s foot often is treated with topical antifungal ointments, which are available to purchase over-the-counter. Extreme infections can also require additional oral drugs. To help kill the infection, the feet would also need to be cared for and kept dry.

Methods of prevention include allowing the feet to breathe plenty of air and keeping them clean and dry. Wearing sandals in public showers or locker rooms is a smart idea.

Yeast infection

A common type of Candida overgrowth in women, generally caused by Candida albicans, is vaginal yeast infections.

The natural balance of the bacteria and yeast in the vagina is disrupted by overgrowth of Candida. Among other factors, this bacteria imbalance may be due to antibiotics, stress, and hormone imbalances, or bad eating habits.

Fungal toenail infections and diaper rash may also be frequently caused by Candida infections.

Symptoms

fungal toenail infections
Fungal toenail infections can usually be caused by a yeast infection.

Symptoms of a yeast infection include:

  • itching and swelling around the vagina
  • During urination or intercourse, burning sensations or discomfort
  • redness and soreness on and surrounding the vagina
  • Unusual vaginal discharge, such as gray clumps resembling cottage cheese or a discharge that is very watery

In certain cases, a rash can develop over time. Yeast infections should be treated quickly, but if left untreated, the symptoms can become severe.

Diagnosis, prevention, and recovery

The classic symptoms of a yeast infection make them easy to diagnose. Doctors can ask about the medical history of the person, such as any past yeast infections or sexually transmitted infections (STIs). They can even ask whether the person has been taking antibiotics recently.

Doctors will then check the vaginal walls and the cervix for signs of infection and, if necessary for proper diagnosis, remove cells from the vagina.

Yeast infection management depends on the seriousness. Standard remedies include creams, pills, or suppositories that are available over-the-counter or through prescription. Complicated infections may require treatments that are complex.

Avoiding yeast infections starts with a balanced diet and proper hygiene. It can also help avoid infection by wearing loose-fitting clothing made from natural fibers. Washing underwear in very hot water and adjusting feminine items will also often help stop the growth of fungi.

Jock itch

Another common fungal skin infection is tinea cruris, widely known as jock itch.

In moist areas of the body, such as the groin, buttocks, and inner thighs, these fungi enjoy warm and damp conditions and thrive. In summer or in warm, humid areas of the world, Jock itch may be more common.

Jock itch is moderately infectious and is often spread by direct contact with a person who is infected or an object carrying the fungus.

Symptoms

Thrush in both men and women can affect the genital region.

Jock itch occurs as an itchy, red rash on the body, which also has a circular shape. Symptoms include:

  • Redness of the groin, thighs, or thighs
  • chafing, irritation, itching, or burning in the infected area
  • a red rash with a circular shape and raised edges
  • cracking, flaking, or dry peeling of the skin in the infected area

Diagnosis, prevention, and recovery

Jock itch has a very distinctive look and, based on its appearance, it can typically be recognized. They can take a skin sample to inspect and confirm their diagnosis if doctors are unsure.

Jock itch treatment usually requires topical antifungal ointments and proper hygiene. Over-the-counter treatments improve many instances of jock itch, while some require prescription medications. It can also help destroy the fungus by washing the infected area and keeping it dry.

By wearing loose-fitting natural fabrics such as cotton underwear, Jock itch can be avoided. It’s also necessary to avoid contact with those who have the infection. It can also actually prevent common products, such as towels and sporting equipment.

Ringworm

A skin infection caused by a fungus that lives on dead tissues, such as the skin, hair, and nails, is Tinea corporis or ringworm. The infection that causes both jock itch and the foot of the athlete is ringworm. The infection is only called ringworm when it occurs somewhere else on the body.

Symptoms

ringworm
Ringworm is a skin infection that triggers athlete’s foot and jock itch.

Because of its shape, ringworm is typically easy to notice. Over time, a red patch that may itch or be scaly would also turn into a raised, ring-shaped skin patch. It could also extend into many circles.

This ring’s outside is red and can appear elevated or bumpy, while the ring’s inside may stay clear or become scaly.

Ringworm is extremely infectious, and it can be transmitted by skin-to-skin contact, or from contact with pets, such as dogs. On items, such as towels, garments, and brushes, the fungus can also survive.

Soil and mud are also affected by the ringworm fungus, so individuals who play or work in infected soil can also catch ringworm.

Diagnosis, prevention, and recovery

Some conditions of the skin may look like ringworm, so doctors generally would like to take a sample of the skin to examine the infection.

Doctors will prescribe medication after verifying a diagnosis, depending on how serious the symptoms are.

To treat certain cases of ringworm, creams and medicated ointments are always appropriate and can be bought over-the-counter or online. A prescription may be required for scalp ringworm or serious ringworm.

Basic hygiene can also assist with ringworm care and prevention. Keeping the skin dry and clean will help prevent infection.

Public safety involves wearing sandals and avoiding common products and towels in public showers or locker rooms.

Risk factors

Fungal infections are common in humans and they are normally not very harmful if they are handled quickly and properly.

It could be more likely that someone with a weakened immune system and anyone taking antibiotics will develop a fungal infection.

Cancer treatment and diabetes can also make a person more prone to fungal infections.

Interpretation

Most fungal skin infections can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription creams. Severe infections may require additional techniques.

To avoid fungal skin infections, taking preventive action can also go a long way.

It is also best to warn a physician about the first sign of infection to avoid potentially serious complications. Through working closely with a physician, most cases of fungal skin infections can be safely treated.

Sources

  • Crawford, F. (2009, July 20). Athlete’s foot. BMJ Clinical Evidence, 1712
    (LINK)
  • El-Gohary, M., van Zuuren, E. J., Fedorowicz, Z., Burgess, H., Doney, L., Stuart, B., … & Little, P. (2014, August 4). Topical antifungal treatments for tinea cruris and tinea corporis. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews8
    (LINK)
  • Genital / vulvovaginal candidiasis (VVC). (2014, February 13)
    (LINK)
  • Ringworm. (2015, December 4)
    (LINK)
  • Medical news today – What you need to know about fungal infections (LINK)

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