Understanding Fungal Infections

Fungi are all around us all the time – in the air, on plants, in soil, and even in water. The word fungus shouldn’t necessarily have a negative connotation attached to it. After all, you’re able to enjoy mushrooms on your hamburger as a result of it, and that’s just one of many examples of how fungal growth can be beneficial. When it comes to a fungal infection of any part of the human body, however, you’re almost certainly not going to consider them as anything but an undesirable health condition. Fungal infections are also called mycoses, and one thing nearly all of them have in common is they’re particularly tough to eliminate.

Fungal skin infections are especially common, it’s natural to ask what are the causes of fungal skin infections, and why do they occur as frequently as they do? Those answers will be provided here, as well as the different types of fungal infections and the fungal infections symptoms that come with each.

Types of Fungal Infections

There are many types of fungal infections, but these are the most common ones seen in humans.

  1. Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)

Fungi grow especially well in warm, dark, and moist environments, and that’s why athlete’s foot is named the way it is. The environment created by sweat and the containment of socks and worn athletic footwear create an ideal one for fungi to develop and multiply. Athlete’s foot is also common in year-round warm climates and independent of what type of footwear is worn.

Fungal infections symptoms for athlete’s foot are:

  • Redness or blisters on the affected area
  • Peeling or cracking skin
  • Soft infected skin or shedding of layers of skin in the area
  • Skin that scales or peels away
  • Itching, stinging, or burning sensations in the area

The standard treatment for athlete’s foot is application of a topical antifungal ointment like Mycostatin (Nystatin). Severe cases may require oral medications. Good prevention methods include allowing feet to have more exposure to fresh air and wearing sandals in public change or locker rooms.

  1. Yeast Infection

This is also one of the more common fungal infections, and with fungal infections symptoms that are very consistent between those seen in each individual affected by it. As it occurs in the vagina it is a condition that is only experienced by women, and it is caused by an overgrowth of candida that disrupts the normal balance of bacteria in that area of the body. Fungal infection symptoms here include:

  • Burning sensations or pain during urination or intercourse
  • Itching and swelling around the vagina
  • Redness and soreness on and around the vaginal opening

This type of fungal infection must be treated quickly, as it can worsen very rapidly if not. Yeast infection treatments usually involve specific anti-fungal medicated preparation creams like Canesten (Clotrimazole). In some cases, a suppository medication may be more effective for clearing up this fungal infection.

  1. Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris)

As mentioned, fungi do especially well in warm and damp environments and that’s exactly the environment provided on a human body’s groin, buttock, and inner thighs some of the time. Jock itch can be contagious, and direct contact with an infected person can lead to this infection being transmitted. The fungal infections symptoms seen with jock itch include:

  • Red rash with circular shape and raised edges
  • Redness in the groin, buttocks, or thighs
  • Irritation, chafing, itching, or burning in the infected area
  • Flaking, cracking, or dry peeling of skin in the infected area

Standard jock infection treatments include the application of topical anti-fungal medications like Naftin or Nystatin. It is important to keep the area clean and dry when recovering from this infection, and good prevention choices include wearing looser-fitting cotton clothing when in warmer and humid climates and not sharing towels or sporting equipment that will come into contact with the groin region.

  1. Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)

Ringworm is a fungal infection of the skin where the fungi feeds on dead skin, hair, and nail tissue. It’s the same fungus responsible for athlete’s foot and jock itch. This fungal infection is extremely contagious as well, and easily transmitted by even the briefest of skin-to-skin contact. It’s unfortunate that the fungus can also survive on inanimate objects like furniture, fabric, and brushes, etc. Ringworm is easy to identify with these fungal infection’s symptoms:

  • A red patch that begins small but turns into a larger and raised, ring-shaped patch that is extremely itchy and scaly
  • These rings expand and multiply in some cases
  • Outer edge of ring is raised or bumpy while inside of it remains clear or becomes scaly

Standard ringworm treatment involves application of medicated anti-fungal ointments like Mycostatin or Naftin. The best prevention approaches for ringworm are to have good personal hygiene and avoid prolonged skin exposure to soil or mud when outdoors. Keeping skin dry and clean as much as possible is helpful too.

  1. Fungal Toenail Infections (Onychomycosis)

This type of fungal infection is extremely common as well, and what makes it even more problematic is that many people aren’t aware that their odd-looking toenail is actual a fungal infection at all. Dismissing these fungal infections symptoms as something that will heal itself is foolhardy, as not only will it not go away on its own but it’s also potentially contagious.

Again, this is all about fungi thriving in warm and moist environments and the fact your toes spend so much time in socks and shoes creates that environment for this fungal infection. This is compounded by the fact that many people neglect to provide their feet and toes with the same level of hygiene attention they give to their hands and fingers. Once the fungus begins to establish itself if it’s not countered by any type of cleaning under the nails then it multiplies quickly and before long you have a fungal toenail infection.

They are more common in older people, and toenail infections occur more frequently with men. Prescription medications like Lamisil (Terbinafine) are prescribed to clear up toenail infections and reduce the risk of reoccurrence.