Fungal infections are common skin conditions that can grow anywhere on or inside the human body. Fungi release spores that can be picked up by direct contact or even inhaled. Fungal infections can grow anywhere on the body, but tend to develop in warm, moist areas such as the feet, groin and armpit area. Topically, they may cause redness, itching, burning and scaling, as well as blisters or peeling. Common types of fungal infections include athlete's foot, jock itch, ringworm and yeast infections.
Types of Fungal Infections
Fungal infections may occur anywhere on or within the body. The most common types are the following:
- Athlete's foot, fungal infection of the feet and toes
- Jock itch, a fungal infection of the groin and armpit area
- Yeast infection, also known as candidiasis
- Ringworm, a fungal infection of the skin and scalp
- Onychomycosis, or infection of the nail and nail bed
- Sinus infections
Most fungal infections are highly contagious and can be spread from human-to-human, animal-to-human or object-to-human. While many parts of the human body have immune mechanisms which fight off fungal infections, they may be spread if the immune system is compromised. Additionally, prolonged use of antibiotics or hormone changes, such as menopause in women, will also make the body more vulnerable to fungal infections.
Symptoms of Fungal Infections
Each type of fungal infection appears with its own set of symptoms. Fungal infections of the skin tend to present themselves with redness or visible spots, as well as itchiness and scaling and cracking of the skin. Nail infection symptoms may include white or yellow streaks, nail buildup, and brittle damage or thickness. Yeast infection symptoms may include genital itching, burning, and a white discharge. Sinus fungal infections may include fever, headache and sinus pain or blockage. These symptoms may differ based upon the specific type of fungus.
Treatment of Fungal Infections
Fungal infections can usually be successfully treated with over-the-counter antifungal oral or topical medications. They are not usually serious, but may be contagious, so treatment is important. Fungi can be difficult to kill. For skin and nail infections, antifungal medications can be applied directly to the infected area. Oral antifungal medicines are also available for fungal infections in other areas of the body, and for more serious nail and skin infections.
Prevention of Fungal Infections
There are several steps which may be taken to prevent fungal infections, including:
- Avoiding prolonged use of antibiotics or steroids
- Eating a balanced diet
- Proper management of blood sugar levels in diabetics
- Keeping the body clean and dry
- Changing socks and underwear everyday
- Avoiding walking barefoot, especially in common areas
- Discarding old boots, shoes, and slippers
- Washing hands often, especially after contact with animals or other people
- Avoiding close contact to soil or dust, such as through gardening or yard work