Fungal Skin Infections (tinea, ringworm)
Microorganisms that regularly live on people’s skin and do not cause any concerns. They can grow out of control and cause fungal diseases of the skin, hair and nails in some cases. A fungus overgrowth on the skin causes Fungal Skin Infections.
Skin infections caused by fungi are relatively prevalent. They are more common in children and teenagers, but they can afflict anyone of any age.
Signs and Symptoms of Fungal Skin Infections
The following are some of the signs and symptoms of fungal skin infection:
- Skin — Itchy, red, raised, scaly spots that blister and ooze on the skin — Patches with highly defined borders are common. They’re usually redder on the outside and have a regular skin tone in the middle. This may give the impression of a ring. It’s also possible that your skin is exceptionally dark or light.
- Nails — Fungal infections of the toenails or fingernails can cause discoloration and thickening of the nails.
- Hair — You may get bald patches on your scalp or beard.
Types of Fungal Skin Infections
Some fungal illnesses have been given unique names describing the region or type of fungi involved:
Ringworm is a term used to describe a fungus infection on the body that can occasionally resemble a ring or a half ring. Because a worm does not cause the rash, this is a confusing moniker.
The term “tinea corporis” refers to ringworm that appears on the body. It’s known as “jock itch” or “tinea cruris” when it appears in the genital area.
The term “tinea capitis” refers to a fungal infection that occurs on the scalp. Hair loss is a possibility with tinea capitis.
Athlete’s Foot (tinea pedis)
Athlete’s Foot is a fungal illness that affects the toes and is quite common. Warmth and moisture are retained by feet that remain in shoes all day, promoting the growth of fungus.
Onychomycosis (tinea uguium)
A fungal infection of the toenail or fingernail is known as onychomycosis. Infections that involve the nail bed or base of the nail are often more difficult to treat and tend to recur without sufficient treatment.
Fungal nail infection may require the removal of part or all of the nail and/or the use of oral antifungal medications.
Tinea versicolor is a common and harmless fungal infection caused by Pityriasis versicolor. It appears on the back, chest, neck and upper arms as light-colored patches of discolored skin.
Tinea nigra is a fungal infection caused by a specific type of fungi (exophiala phaeoannellomyces) found in the soil of tropical regions. The infection generally occurs in individuals prone to excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis). It appears as slowly expanding brown or black patches on the skin of the palms and/or soles.
Diagnosis of Fungal Skin Infections
Your physician may diagnose a fungal infection primarily based on the appearance of the skin. In some cases, the skin may be scraped to obtain cells for examination under a microscope. Also, a Wood’s lamp may be used to identify fungi that appear fluorescent under its blue light.
Treatment of Fungal Skin Infections
Most cases of ringworm (jock itch and athlete’s foot) and tinea versicolor can be treated effectively with antifungal medications applied to the skin (topical medications).
Tinea capitis often requires the use of an oral antifungal agent, such as griseofulvin, because the fungi can reside deep in the hair follicles and can’t be reached by topical medications.
Similarly, nail infections where the fungi have penetrated the nail bed may require an oral antifungal, though some specially formulated topical antifungals might be tried first.
Tinea nigra generally responds well to topical antifungal agents and peeling agents such as salicylic acid or topical retinoids.
The paper-thin patches of fungal overgrowth found with tinea versicolor can be treated effectively with topical antifungal solutions.
How Can I Prevent a Fungal Skin Infection?
Fungal infections on the skin are contagious. They can be passed from one person to the next by direct skin-to-skin contact or by contact with contaminated items such as combs, unwashed clothing and shower or pool surfaces. You can also catch ringworm from pets that carry the fungus.
Fungi thrive in warm, moist areas. Infections are more likely when you have frequent wetness (such as sweating) and minor injuries to your skin, scalp or nails.
To help prevent fungal infections:
- Keep your skin and feet clean and dry.
- Shampoo regularly, especially after haircuts.
- Do not share clothing, towels, hairbrushes, combs, headgear or other personal care items. Such items should be thoroughly cleaned and dried after use.
- Wear sandals or shoes at gyms, lockers and pools.
- Avoid touching pets with bald spots.
- Wash your hands if you pet a stray animal.