Surprisingly there are millions of species of fungi, among which only 300 of them can actually cause infections in humans. There are several types of fungal infection you might not even know about – that can affect your skin.
Fungi and most microorganisms usually make their homes in moist areas of your body. These are areas where skin surfaces meet, for example, between the toes, under the breasts, and in the genital area.
Common fungal skin infections are caused by yeasts. You would be surprised to know that many such fungi live only in the topmost layer of your epidermis. They generally do not penetrate deeper.
But obese people likely to get these infections because they have excessive skinfolds. As a result, the skin within a skinfold becomes irritated and breaks down. People with diabetes also tend to be more susceptible to fungal infections.
Here we will take a closer look at some of the most common fungal skin infections also known as mycosis. We will also discuss ways they can be treated and prevented.
What is a Fungal Infection of the Skin?
Both fungal skin infections and fungal nail infections cause itchy patches, but they are not usually serious. Commonly known fungal infections like ringworm, athlete’s foot, and jock itch are easy to pick up and transmit to others. Hence you need to be extra cautious when you are in public places.
If you are a healthy person, the fungus will not spread beyond the surface of your skin, so they are easy to treat. If you spend a lot of time at the gym or public pool, you need to follow the guidelines to guard against fungal infections.
Fungi live everywhere on most of the surfaces of living organisms. They can be found in plants, soil, and even on your skin and mouth. These microscopic organisms on your skin do not cause any problem. Only when they multiply faster than normal do they pose a problem. Or, when they penetrate your skin through a cut or lesion, they could be dangerous.
Since fungi can live in warm, moist environments, you will find fungal skin infections often develop in hot climates. Meaning they often develop in sweaty or damp areas that do not get much airflow. Some examples in your body include the feet, groin, and folds of your skin.
Often, these infections look like a scaly rash or discoloration of your skin that is often itchy. Some fungal skin infections are very common and are visible during hot weather. Although these infections can be annoying and uncomfortable, it is typically not serious.
Unfortunately, most fungal infections are often spread through direct contact. This could include coming into close contact with fungi on clothing or other surfaces or on a person or animal.
Diagnosis of Fungal Infection of the Skin
Your doctors might suspect a fungal infection when they see an irritated, red, or scaly rash in one of your commonly affected areas. They can easily confirm the diagnosis of a fungal skin infection by scraping off a small amount of skin. Once they examine it under a microscope, they can easily identify the fungus.
The symptoms of fungal infection will solely depend on the type. However, common symptoms include skin changes, including cracking or peeling of the skin.
Strangely, if fungal infections erupt on one part of the body, it can cause rashes on other parts of your body that are not infected. For example, if you have a fungal infection on foot it may cause an itchy, bumpy rash on the fingers. These eruptions are skin allergic reactions to the fungus. You can have these eruptions even if you do not touch the infected area.
Common Fungal Infection of the Skin
1 Athlete’s Foot
Athlete’s foot is a type of fungal infection seen on the feet. The infection results in itching, cracked, burning, and peeling between the toes. The skin disease is caused by a type of ringworm. You can often find this fungus in wet areas like pool areas, locker rooms, gyms, towels, and shoes.
Hence it is advisable always to wear shower shoes when you are in public showers or pool areas. Make it a practice to wash and dry your feet thoroughly every day. Air out your shoes and allow them to dry completely before wearing them again. Always try putting on clean socks daily.
Remember, not all itchy, scaly feet are caused by a fungus. Your doctor may scrape off a bit of skin and observe it under a microscope to check for a different condition. Your doctor might prescribe an antifungal medicine to apply to your skin.
Be sure to always keep your feet clean and dry. Prevention of fungal infection is very important. You need to wear shower sandals in public showering areas and wash your feet every day using soap and water. Dry them thoroughly, and try using a quality foot powder.
Ringworm or tinea is an organism that might cause fungal infection on your scalp. They might also cause fungal infections on your face or on other areas of your body. Ringworm creates a specific fungal infection skin rash that is circular in shape, raised, red, and itchy.
The outer part of the sore could be raised while the skin in the middle appears normal. You will often get this infection or pick up the ringworm from other people, pets, or contaminated surfaces that carry the organism.
You need to always keep your skin clean and dry to help prevent ringworm infection. Do not share personal items like hairbrushes, towels, and combs, to avoid spreading the infection. You can also pick it up from furniture or clothing. Take note that humidity and heat can help spread the infection. Ringworm is easily transmissible.
Your dermatologist might prescribe antifungal medications that you can put on your skin. You might also use an over-the-counter cream. In more severe cases, you might need prescription medication from your doctor to apply on your skin or take orally.
3 Jock Itch
Jock itch is a fungal infection commonly found on the groin – primarily your genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. This itchy, red, raised rash can affect both men and women.
Jock itch is also caused by a type of ringworm fungus. You are more likely to get infected when you are sweating and in hot, humid weather. Infections happen more often during the summer months or in warm, wet climates.
When you exercise wearing your workout clothes in hot, humid conditions – it is where jock itch flourishes. You can minimize the spread of the infection by keeping your groin area clean and dry. Wear fresh clothes and underwear daily.
Is jock itch contagious? Yes, the skin disorder is only mildly contagious. It can spread from one person to another through direct contact or indirectly through objects with the fungus on them. Keep the groin-affected area clean and dry. Over-the-counter antifungal medicines help treat most cases of jock itch. In some severe cases, your doctor might prescribe a cream.
4 Nail Fungus
Toenail fungal infection is also widespread in hot, humid climates. It appears as yellowish, thick, brittle toenails. At times even fingernails can be affected as well. You need to take the same precautions to avoid toenail fungus as you do to avoid other types of fungal infections.
Try to keep your hands and feet clean and dry. Wear clean socks and make it a point to change them daily. Do not forget to wear flip-flops when you are in wet areas like locker rooms, at the pool, and in communal shower areas. Also, choose wide-toed shoes to give your toe enough space to breadth.
Do not share personal items like towels, razors, grooming tools, and nail clippers. This fungus can survive on any surface and hence should use clean towels and other personal items. Basic hygiene can help you treat and prevent this fungal infection. In addition, keeping your skin dry and clean can help avoid infection.
Treating of Fungal Infection of Skin
If you notice any kind of skin infection, talk to your doctor or dermatologist. Some skin conditions might look like fungal infections, but they generally have a different underlying cause.
In such cases, they also require different treatment. If you have mild fungal infections, topical medication may treat them easily. But If you have a persistent or severe condition, you may need prescription antifungals.
The common question that arises is can fungal infections lead to serious illness? Fungal nail infections and fungal skin infections are annoying, but they are rarely serious. As they usually just cause mild itching and irritation. If you find that the fungal skin infections are severe or problematic, you should visit your doctor for an evaluation and treatment.
Most of the above-discussed fungal infections of the skin can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription creams. Only some severe infections might require additional methods. Taking preventive action can help you go a long way towards avoiding fungal infections of your skin.
It is always best to notify your doctor at the first sign of infection to avoid any kind of serious complications. By working directly with your dermatologist or doctor, most cases of fungal skin infections can be easily treated.