Surprisingly there are millions of species of fungi, out of which only about 300 of them can actually cause infections in humans. These fungi can cause several types of fungal skin infection that can affect your skin and other parts of the body.
Do you know that fungi live everywhere? You can find them on the plants, in the soil, and even on your skin. These microscopic organisms present on your skin do not cause any problem. But they might multiply faster than normal or penetrate your skin wherever there is a cut or lesion.
Discussed below are some of the most common fungal skin infections and how they can be treated and prevented.
What is Fungal Skin Infection?
A fungus is a tiny organism, such as mildew or mold. Fungi are everywhere, in the air and water and on the human body. Fungal infections are also called mycoses. About half of these fungi are harmful. If one of these harmful fungi lands on your skin, causing fungal infection. If you have a fungal skin infection, you may develop a rash or feel itchy.
Who is at risk for developing a fungal skin infection? Anyone can develop a fungal infection. Superficial infections of your skin and nails are seen as the most common form of infection.
It affects about 20-25% of the world’s population staying in any climate. For example, an athlete’s foot often affects healthy people. You might have a higher risk for developing a fungal skin infection if you:
- If you have a weakened immune system, you are at a higher risk of getting fungal skin infections. For example, if you take immunosuppressant medications. It is a disease that weakens your immune system. Or if you are undergoing chemotherapy, you might be at a higher risk.
- If you take long-term or high-dose antibiotics.
- Have excess weight or is obese.
- Have diabetes.
- If you try a new skin care product, you might have a chance of having a skin fungus infection.
- Experience incontinence – for example, babies getting diaper rashes.
- If you sweat heavily, you might tend to have a skin infection.
- Are pregnant.
Are Skin Fungal Infections Serious?
Fungal skin infections and nail infections appear red and itchy, but they are not usually serious. Fungal infections like athlete’s foot, jock itch, and ringworm are easy to pick up and transmit to others. In healthy people, the fungus does not spread quickly, so they are easy to treat. If you spend a lot of time at the public pool or gym, you need to be extra careful to guard against fungal infections.
Fungi are present everywhere, but they are too small to be seen with the naked eye. Fungi can live outdoors on plants and in the soil; indoors on furniture surfaces and in the air; and on people’s skin and even inside your body. There are millions of fungal species, but only a few hundred of them can make people sick.
The red, itchy, scaly rashes can be irritating and can drive you crazy. But most fungal infections are not dangerous, and you can usually treat them easily with creams. If you tend to get repeated fungal infections, talk to your doctor about preventing them from returning.
Because the symptoms of most of these fungal infections can be very similar to those of other illnesses, proper diagnosis and treatment often get delayed. The more you know about fungal infections and your chances of getting one – the better you can protect your health.
What are Different Types of Skin Fungal Infection?
All fungi thrive in moist, warm environments, and hence fungal skin infections can often develop in sweaty or damp areas that do not get much airflow. Some of these areas include the groin, feet, and folds of skin.
Most of these infections appear as a scaly rash or discoloration of the skin that is often itchy. Some fungal skin infections are widespread. Although the infection can be uncomfortable and annoying, it is typically not severe. Fungal skin infections can spread through direct contact with someone. This can include coming into contact with fungi on clothing or other items.
The medical name for fungal skin infection is tinea. Some of the most common types of fungal infections include:
1 Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis)
The most common type of fungal infection, this infection often spreads when you walk barefoot in public bathrooms or locker rooms. The skin between your toes starts to turn white and starts to peel. Athlete’s feet can also affect the soles or the bottoms part of your feet.
This fungal infection generally affects the skin on your feet, often between your toes. Typical symptoms of an athlete’s foot include itching, burning, or stinging sensation. It is felt between your toes or on the soles of your feet.
The skin appears scaly, red, flaky, and dry in that area. You might also notice cracks or blisters on your skin. In some cases, the fungal disease can also spread to other areas of your body. Examples include your groin, nails, or hands (tinea manuum).
2 Nail fungus (onychomycosis)
This skin infection is a common foot problem. It usually affects your toenails, which become yellow and thick and break easily. It can also affect your fingernails, although infections of the toenails are more common.
The common symptoms include discolored, typically yellow, brittle or break easily and thickened nails.
Keep hands and feet clean and dry to prevent nail fungus. Wear washed socks and change them daily. Make sure you wear flip-flops when you are in locker rooms or at the pool areas. Choose wide-toed shoes so that there is enough space in your toe area. Make it a practice not to share personal items like towels, razors, and nail clippers.
3 Jock itch (tinea cruris)
A rash that occurs in the groin area, jock itch, affects more men than women. Jock itch is a fungal infection that results in red, itchy, raised rashes. A type of ringworm fungus causes jock itch.
You are more likely to get it when you are in humid weather. Exercising in workout clothes for long might cause the hot, humid conditions where jock itch flourishes. To minimize the risk, keep your groin area clean and dry. Wear fresh clothes and underwear every day.
4 Scalp ringworm (tinea capitis)
This rash occurs primarily in children as they sweat a lot. It causes hair loss, but if you get the right treatment, your hair will grow back. It is a fungal infection of your scalp and hair shafts. The symptoms of ringworm of the scalp might vary, but it usually appears as scaly, itchy, bald patches on your head. It is a highly contagious infection and most common in toddlers and school-age children.
Treatment for ringworm of the scalp generally includes medications to kill the fungi. In addition, medicated shampoos might lessen the spread of infection. In some cases, ringworm of the scalp results in severe inflammation at the infected area that might cause scarring or permanent hair loss.
5 Ringworm (tinea corporis)
This common term is what doctors call a rash that does not fit into any other category. The rash often forms a ring shape. The ringworm creates a characteristic fungal infection skin rash that is circular, red, raised, and itchy.
Tinea, or ringworm, is an organism that might cause fungal infection on the scalp, infections on the face, or infections on other areas of your body.
People usually pick up ringworm from other people’s contaminated items that carry the fungus. Keep your skin dry and clean to help prevent ringworm. Also, avoid sharing personal items, like towels, combs and hairbrushes to avoid spreading the infection. Remember, ringworm is easily transmissible.
How Can You Prevent Fungal Skin Infection?
In some people, fungal infections tend to come back even after treatment. Recurring skin rashes may be due to genetics, or you might be more prone to developing these infections. The following steps can help prevent inflammation from developing or recurring again and again:
- You should change your socks and wash your feet regularly. This will help to remove the fungus that causes the infection. Avoid shoes made of plastic, which does not breathe.
- Never walk barefoot, especially in places that might be wet, such as locker rooms or gym showers.
- When you cut your toenails, always cut straight across the nail. If you have an ingrown toenail, you might need to visit a podiatrist to care for it. And if you notice a fungal nail infection, never use the same nail clippers for both healthy nails and infected nails.
Proper medicine use
- If your doctor has prescribed an over-the-counter cream, use the medicine as long as directed. Even after your rash is no longer seen, the fungal infection may still be there. So you should keep applying the cream as long as your doctor recommends.
- Your doctor might recommend the same course of treatment for all the members of your family. You should be aware that people living together can pass an infection back and forth. Treating everyone will ensure that the condition is truly gone.
- Talk to your doctor about whether you should use an antifungal cream regularly on your feet and nails to prevent the disease from coming back.
- You can also use antifungal powder in your shoes every day, which helps prevent most fungal skin infections.
Public areas like gyms and locker rooms are places where it is easy to pick up fungal skin infections. You can reduce your risk of picking up a skin infection by wearing clean, loose-fitting workout clothes to keep your skin dry and airy. Wear flip-flops around pools, communal showers, and locker rooms. Never stay bare feet as the chances of getting the infection is more.
Wash your hands frequently and sanitize them right after you work out. Also, disinfect exercise equipment before and after using them. Shower right after you work out and throw away your workout gear into the washer. If you do not do laundry immediately, try to hang up any damp garments to dry them out.
In case you have a wound or cut, try keeping it clean and covered and try staying away from saunas, hot tubs, and steam rooms until it has healed. So you should learn more about the symptoms, signs, and treatment of fungal skin infections. Also, get prevention tips by talking to your doctor.