Fungi are known to thrive in the human body, making their homes in moist areas where skin surfaces meet. The most common areas of the human body that are susceptible to fungal attacks are found in between the toes, in the genital area, and under the breasts.
Most fungal skin infections are triggered by yeasts such as Candida or Tinea. Most fungi live on the upper surface of the skin or the epidermis and cannot penetrate into the skin. People who are overweight or obese are most susceptible to fungal skin infections as they have numerous skin folds. Fungal skin infections are also commonly seen in people who have diabetes, which is a chronic disease characterized by high blood sugar levels.
Fungal infections affecting a certain part of the body can also lead to the appearance of rashes. These rashes are allergic reactions from the fungi and may not be as a result of touching the infected areas. Fungal infections are largely characterized by a red, irritated, or scaly rash in the commonly affected areas. Hence, a diagnosis based on its appearance can be easily made by healthcare providers. In cases when a detailed diagnosis needs to be performed to confirm the type of fungi, the diagnosis is carried out by scraping a small amount of the inflamed skin for a culture examination.
What are the most common fungal skin infections?
Some of the most common fungal skin infections include:
- Athlete's Foot - This fungal infection is also known as Tinea pedis,which affects the foot region of the body. It may result in peeling of the skin, redness, itching, burning sensations, and sometimes, blisters and sores. Athlete’s foot is a common occurrence during summer and in regions with high humidity. The fungus that causes athlete’s foot thrives best in warm and moist environments like shoes, socks, pools, and shower floorings. People wearing tight shoes as well as using common bathrooms and pools are most susceptible to getting this fungal infection.
- Jock Itch - This condition is medically known as Tinea cruris. It is another form of fungal skin infection that is caused by the fungus called Tinea. This form of fungal infection largely affects the genitals, inner thighs, and buttocks. Since this fungus thrives in warm and moist environments, this infection is common in the summer season and wet climates. The appearance of this infection is characterized by the formation of a red itchy rash that is often in the shape of a ring. A jock itch infection is mildly contagious and spreads to a certain extent by either direct contact or through objects carrying the fungi.
- Ringworm - In medical terminology, this fungal infection is known as Tinea corporis. It can affect any part of the body. In appearance, it looks like a flat, circular sore that is red in color. It is also accompanied by scaly and itchy skin in most cases. Usually, a ringworm infection is not a very serious condition. However, it is contagious in nature and can spread by direct contact with the infected human or animal. This infection can also spread through clothing or objects like furniture. Fungi can grow and spread in humid environments.
- Yeast Infections - Yeast that attacks the skin is known as cutaneous candidiasis. Its primary cause is attributed to the yeast-like fungi known as Candida. Infection can occur when the yeast actively grows on the skin surface leading to a red rash that is extremely itchy and scaly. Yeast infections can affect any skin surfaces and grow under warm and moist conditions. However, they are not contagious. People suffering from obesity, diabetes, and those on antibiotics have an increased risk of acquiring this infection. Candida can also cause a diaper rash in infants as well as a result of nail-related infections. Candida is also known to cause vaginal infections.
Types of Antifungal Medications
Antifungal medicines are available in various forms. Each of these medications is prescribed based on the diagnosis of the infection and its severity. The primary types of antifungal medicines are:
- Topical Antifungal - This kind of medicine can be directly applied to the affected parts of the body such as the skin, hair, or nails.
- Oral Antifungal - This antifungal medication is available in the form of a capsule, pill, or liquid. Oral antifungals need to be consumed as per the prescribed dosage of your doctor.
- Intravenous Antifungal - This form of antifungal medication is injected into the bloodstream of the patient. Normally, it is administered in hospitals or other healthcare facilities.
- Intravaginal Antifungal Pessaries - These are recommended when it comes to treating vaginal fungal infections such as vaginal thrush. These medications are available as small, soft suppositories that are inserted into the vagina. It will dissolve almost immediately after insertion.
Fungal medications are available in various generic names such as econazole, miconazole, terbinafine, fluconazole, and ketoconazole. Depending on the type of fungus and the intensity of the infection, doctors generally prescribe what will best suit the patient to help speed up the recovery.
Effective Alternative Remedies for Fungal Skin Infections
An important factor to prevent the fungus from repeatedly attacking is to maintain good hygiene levels. Using an antibacterial soap, changing clothes after a game or run, wiping the body dry after a shower, and applying antifungal powders are basic habits that go a long way in keeping fungal skin infections at bay.
Apart from medications, there are a few simple natural remedies that have their proven efficacy in treating fungal infections. They are:
- Apple Cider Vinegar - ACV is an excellent remedy for a number of health issues. It is especially beneficial in treating fungal skin infections such as ringworm. Apple cider vinegar is rich in antiseptic properties and is a deep cleanser. When applied, it works by killing the fungi, thereby preventing the chances of recurrent infections. To use apple cider vinegar, the affected area must be thoroughly cleaned with an antiseptic soap. After drying and cleaning the area, apply apple cider vinegar with a cotton ball. Doing this remedy can better the symptoms in no time.
- Tea Tree Oil - It is an essential oil that has natural antiseptic properties. Tea tree oil ointments are available and are known to provide immediate relief from skin infections. However, before application, the affected area must be thoroughly cleaned.
- Hydrogen Peroxide - It is considered as an effective home remedy for disinfecting cuts and bruises. It also has proven its efficacy in cleaning up fungal skin infections. A solution made up of hydrogen peroxide and water should be applied to the infection using a cotton ball. For those seeking relief from athlete’s foot, they can soak their feet in a mixture of hydrogen peroxide and water to kill the fungus completely.
Preventing Fungal Infections
Some of the easiest ways of preventing fungal infections are:
- Maintaining a healthy hygiene.
- Using a sanitizer to keep one's hands disinfected and germ-free.
- Wearing loose clothes.
- Wearing shoes when outdoors to prevent contact with outside germs.
- Frequently changing, disinfecting, and washing of towels as well as clothes such as socks and undergarments.