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Today in Health & Wellness

Skin Fungal Infections

Risk Factors
Treatment and Management
Doctors to Consult

Fungi thrive in moist areas of the body where skin surfaces meet: between the toes, in the genital area, and under the breasts. Fungi that infect the skin is called dermatophytes, they live mostly in the epidermis (topmost layer of the skin).

Fungal diseases may sound mysterious and dangerous, but often they cause familiar infections. Yeast infections, thrush, ring worm, eye, lung, skin, hair, and nail infections can all be caused by fungi. Fungi are lurking everywhere and interact with humans, animals, and plants in a variety of ways. Some of these interactions can be beneficial; for example, both penicillin and bread, wine and beer use ingredients made from fungi. However, certain types of fungi can be harmful to health. Like bacteria and viruses, some fungi can act as pathogens. Human fungal diseases can occur due to infection or fungal toxins.


ATHLETE'S FOOT, Tinea pedis (alipunga) is a common persistent infection of the foot caused by microscopic fungi that live on dead tissue of the hair, toenails, and outer skin layers. Athlete's foot may be transmitted through contact with a cut or abrasion on the bottom of the foot. It is common in males from the teens to the early 50s.

  • Persistent itching of the skin on the sole of the foot or between the toes, usually the fourth and fifth toes
  • The skin grows soft and the center of the infection becomes inflamed and sensitive to the touch
  • The edges of the infected area become milky white and the skin begins to peel
  • A slight watery discharge also may be present.

BARBER'S ITCH, Tinea barbae is an infection of the beard and mustache areas of the face. It is most prevalent in adult males. Tinea barbae most often affects farmers and is due to direct contact with an infected animal. It is rarely passed from one person to another. The presence of papules and crusts on the affected areas; hairs are broken next to the skin and may plug follicles; reddish lesions with pus on the chin, cheeks and/or neck are the common symptoms of Barber's itch.

JOCK ITCH, Tinea cruris (hadhad) occurs almost exclusively in adult men. It can sometimes accompany athlete's foot and ringworm. The fungus that causes jock itch thrives in warm, moist areas. Jock itch can be triggered by friction from clothes and prolonged wetness in the groin area (such as from sweating). Jock itch can be passed by direct skin-to-skin contact or contact with unwashed clothing. It usually stays around the creases in the upper thigh and may spread to the anus, causing anal itching and discomfort.

  • Itching, chafing or burning in the groin, thigh, or anal area
  • Skin redness in the groin, thigh, or anal area
  • Flaking, peeling, or cracking skin.

NAIL INFECTION occurs when fungi invade a fingernail or toenail and/or the skin underneath the nail (nail bed). The fungus can be acquired by walking barefoot in public places. Older people, diabetics, and people with poor circulation to the feet are particularly prone to this type of fungal infection.

  • White or yellow opaque streak appears at one side of the nail
  • Scaling occurs under the nail
  • Flaky white patches and pits appear on the top of the nail plate
  • Yellow spots appear in the half-moon (lunula) and complete destruction of the nail.

RINGWORM OF THE SCALP or Tinea capitis is the name used for infection of the scalp with a fungus. It is most prevalent in boys aged between 3 and 7 years of age. Tinea capitis infections are more common in crowded living conditions. The fungus can contaminate hairbrushes, clothing, towels and the backs of seats. The spores are long lived and can infect other individual months later.

WHITE SPOTS or Tinea versicolor (an-an) is caused by Pityrosporum orbiculare, a type of yeast. When the skin is oily, warm and moist enough, the yeast starts to grow into small "colonies" on the surface of the skin. These colonies leak out an acidic bleach which changes the skin color from reddish brown to white, depending on skin tone. Commonly affected sites include the back, underarm, upper arms, chest and neck. An-an is more common in hot climates and is associated with increased sweating.

Risk Factors
  • Antibiotic Use. Antibiotics reduce the helpful bacteria that live in the body, altering the balance of the normal flora. Fungi may then take the opportunity to colonize.
  • Corticosteroid Use. Corticosteroids reduce inflammation and are used to treat many skin disorders. However, these drugs can also suppress the immune response and improve conditions for fungal growth.
  • Medical Conditions. Diabetes and some cancers, such as leukemia make a person more susceptible to fungal infections.
  • Compromised Immune System. A depressed immune system is less equipped to fight off all types of infection. Fungal infections thus become more difficult to control.
  • Environmental Factors. Moisture is essential for fungi to grow and reproduce. Exposure to fungi is more frequent in communal areas with moisture, such as locker rooms and showers.
Commonly Prescribed Drugs
Treatment and Management


  • Always keep the feet dry, particularly in between toes
  • Wear socks made of absorbent fibers, and change them daily
  • Wear water proof sandals in public showers and pools, when the weather is hot and humid, go barefoot whenever possible, avoid tight shoes
  • Allow shoes to dry at night. If possible, do not wear the same shoes every day.


  • Shower or bathe daily and after exercising, participating in sports or sweating excessively
  • Wash hands often to avoid the spread of infection
  • Dry the genital area and inner thighs thoroughly with a clean towel after showering or swimming. Try rubbing powder around the groin area to prevent excess moisture.
  • Launder athletic supporters frequently. Avoid wearing thick clothing for long periods of time in humid weather.
  • Avoid sharing personal items (clothing, towels etc.). Refrain from borrowing these items from others as well.


  • Keep nails clean and dry; change shoes, socks, or hosiery daily.
  • Wear socks made of synthetic fibers, which can absorb moisture more quickly than those made of cotton or wools.
  • Disinfect manicure and pedicure kits after each use; do not apply nail polish to infected nails. This causes water or moisture to collect under the surface of the nail.
Home Remedies
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