Fungal infections, or mycosis, are diseases caused by a fungus (parasites that include yeast and mold).
Fungal infections are most common on your skin or nails (superficial), but can also cause infections in your mouth, throat, lungs, urinary tract and many other parts of your body.
Superficial fungal infections are the 4th most common cause of disease in the human population, affect the outer layers of the skin, nails, mucous membranes, and hair and are commonly seen in everyday clinical practice.
Three main organisms are responsible for superficial fungal infections. These are:
Dermatophytes: a group of fungi that digest keratin (for example, in hair and nails).
Yeasts: a group of fungi characterised by clusters of round or oval cells, which bud out to divide and propagate.
Moulds: commonly found widespread in the environment, and therefore are a common cause of nail infections.
Common fungal skin infections
MOST COMMON IN
Tinea cruris (jock itch)1
Dermatophyte, commonly spreads from infection on the feet or nails
Asymmetric rash in the groin and surrounding areas
Tinea pedis (athlete’s foot)2
Dermatophyte, usually acquired from direct contact, for example, sharing towels, walking in a public changing room
Asymmetric itchy erosions or scales on feet, including between the toes, sole and sides of the foot
Tinea capitis (scalp ringworm)3
Dermatophyte, contagious; spread from contact with infected people or animals, or through household furniture or items
Dry, scaly areas on the scalp with alopecia, redness and itch
Tinea corporis (ringworm)4
Dermatophyte, affects any part of the body, except hands and feet, scalp, face and beard, groin and nails. transmission facilitated through sharing of household items
Ring-shaped lesion, with central hypopigmentation and a peripheral scaly red rim
Dermatophyte, affects the soles, heels and sides of the feet
Scaly, red and thickened skin
Candida yeasts, normal inhabitants of the human digestive tract that can cause infection if the immune system is weakened.
Rash in skin folds
Infants or elderly
Tinea / pityriasis versicolor4
Malassezia yeasts, fungi that are a normal part of skin microbiota but can grow more actively to form disease. Not considered infectious
Flaky, discoloured patches on the trunk, arms, or neck
Onychomycosis (fungal nail infection)5
Can be caused by dermatophytes (in over 75% of cases), or non-dermatophyte infection (NDMO) from yeasts or moulds. 10 times more common in toenails than fingernails3
Single or multiple nails; can appear as scaling, crumbling or discolouration among other symptoms
Adults > 65 years old
Moccasin-type tinea pedis
Tinea / pityriasis versicolor
1. DermNetNZ.org. Candida. 2. Hay RJ. Medicine 2017;45(11):707–710. 3. DermNetNZ.org. Oral candidiasis. 4. DermNetNZ.org. Pityriasis versicolor. 5. DermNetNZ.org. Fungal nail infections.
Causes of Fungal Skin Infections
Fungal disease can affect people of all age, race, sex and social background.
Certain infections are more common in certain groups, for example, ringworm (tinea corporis) in children and athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) in men
Conditions that promote fungi growth:
Warm, humid environments,
including public showers, swimming pools and locker rooms
Tight-fitting clothing and shoes
that cause the skin to sweat
Presence of pets and other domestic animals,
who may have asymptomatic dermatophyte infections
Direct contact with cultivated fertile soil
Fun Fact: Athlete’s foot got its name not because it is only for athletes or that it afflicts men, but because the fungus that causes it are commonly found in places that athletes frequent, such as showers and locker rooms.
Many fungal infections have characteristic symptoms; however, the key diagnosis is the demonstration of the organism in the skin. These general tips can help you avoid fungal skin infections or ease the symptoms if infection occurs:
Treat your feet if you have a fungal infection.
Keep your feet dry, especially between your toes.
Go barefoot to let your feet air out as much as possible when you’re home.
If your feet get very sweaty, change your socks twice a day.
Wear light, well-ventilated shoes.
Alternate pairs of shoes. Don’t wear the same pair every day so that you give your shoes time to dry after each use.
Protect your feet in public places.
Wear sandals or shoes around public pools, showers and lockers rooms.
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Lamisil for the treatment of fungal skin infections such as athlete´s foot. Always read the label and follow the directions for use.