No matter how much we may try to isolate ourselves from our environment, we inevitably affect the world around us. And it affects us, too: Not only do we interact with other humans, but also plants, animals, and even microscopic lifeforms like bacteria and other germs, whether we know it or not. Fungi are no exception. These organisms come in many forms and often thrive in warm, damp environments. As it turns out, our bodies can make decent hosts for certain types of fungi.
Fungal infections are fairly common, especially on parts of the skin that produce the ideal environment for fungi as described above, such as the groin, soles of the feet, and underneath the fingernails. Fungal skin infections are also known as tinea, or sometimes ringworm. However, not all fungal skin infections are related to ringworm. Here we’ll explore the most common fungal infections and discuss various treatment options.
Athlete’s foot is aptly named, as it affects a great number of those who play sports. Of course, non-athletes can also develop tinea pedis. Our feet are often kept warm by our socks and shoes, and enough activity can cause our feet to sweat. This combination of warmth and moisture creates a perfect environment for various types of fungi to grow. All it takes is for the feet to be exposed to spores, which can happen in a locker room, public pool, or other shared space. Athlete’s foot is well known for its itchiness, blisters, and burning sensation.
Jock itch is the nickname for tinea cruris, which refers to a fungal infection of the groin area. Like the soles of feet, the groin can provide a warm, damp place for fungi to thrive and spread. This infection produces an itchy ring-shaped rash that may reach down the inner thighs and toward the genitals and buttocks.
Yeast infections are among the most common fungal infections. Caused by the fungus candida, these infections most commonly reside in the vagina or vulva. However, yeast infections can also affect one’s skin. Diaper rash is a common form of yeast infection. Candida often resides in areas where the skin folds, since these are warmer and hold more moisture.
Many kinds of fungi also enjoy the spaces between one’s skin and nails, both on the hands and feet. A fungal nail infection may resemble a bacterial infection, making it difficult to identify without the aid of a doctor. Symptoms include discoloration, cracking, and/or abnormal thickness of the nail. The surrounding skin may become inflamed and itchy and produce a strange odor. Those who wear fake nails may be at greater risk for tinea unguium, as fungi may find a home between the natural and artificial nails.
While fungal skin infections are most commonly found on the soles of the feet, groin, and between folds of skin, they can also occur just about anywhere else on the body. Tinea corporis describes an infection on the arms, shoulders, face, or other areas. Fungal infections on the neck and scalp are known as tinea capitis. And tinea barbae (or beard ringworm) refers to a fungal infection on the skin where facial hair grows.
Despite there being many different types of fungal infections that can affect the skin, treating these infections often requires similar methods. Antifungal medications such as amorolfine, butenafine, clotrimazole, ketoconazole, and several others are effective treatments in most cases. These usually come in the form of a cream or ointment that is applied topically wherever the fungi have spread on the skin. Patients with more severe infections may be prescribed an oral antifungal drug. Doctors may also recommend anti-inflammatory drugs like topical corticosteroids to reduce itching and ease overall discomfort. Ultimately, the fungal infection treatment one receives will depend on their individual needs and medical history.
For better or worse, fungi are a part of our lives. You can lower your risk of infection by maintaining good hygiene, wearing open-toed shoes on hot days, and being cautious in public, damp places. If you want to know more about fungal skin infections and how to prevent them, speak with Southeast Dermatology Specialists. Our experienced team can help you keep your skin healthy and fungus-free. Contact us to learn more about our services and providers.