Fungal skin infections are actually quite common and generally are mild in nature. They can make individuals sick if they have suppressed immune systems.
Fungal skin infections are also known as “mycoses”. Fungi are actually parasites or saprophytes that live off of living or dead organic matter.
There are several classifications of fungal skin infections. These classifications are:
Superficial fungal skin infections – this infection is in the outer layers of the skin, nails and hair. The main infections in this group are dermatophytes (tinea), yeast infections such as candida, malassezia or piedra and moulds.
Subcutaneous fungal skin infections – these infections occur in the deeper layers of the skin (dermis and subcutaneous tissue). They can even occur in the bone. These infections are usually picked up from soil as they live on rotting vegetation. Infections of this nature are mycetoma and chromoblastomycosis.
Systemic fungal infections are not skin infections because they are caused by breathing in the spores of fungi that live in soil or on rotting vegetation.
Athlete’s foot (tinea pedis) is a common fungal skin infection. Both fungus and bacteria often cause it. The skin appears soggy and scaly appearing usually in the web spaces of the toes. The skin can be itchy and pale. Contaminated skin fragments found in public places like swimming pools and community shower places usually pass on this infection.
Jock itch (tinea cruris) is another familiar fungal infection. It is named appropriately because individuals participating in sports are usually at risk for this infection. It is an itchy, red rash in the groin area and many men who sweat a lot will experience jock itch. Sometimes the infection starts out as athlete’s foot, and the man scratches his feet, and then scratches his groin area, and passes along the infection.
Ringworm (tinea corporis) is also familiar to most people. This fungal skin infection can be passed from domestic animals and passed along to humans. It looks like red patches of skin in the form of a ring with a clear center. Young children frequently get ringworm. The infection can cause hair loss.
Thrush (Candida albicans)is a very common fungus that actually can live in harmony on our skin. It can cause problems during times of illness or when antibiotics are being used, causing the fungi to multiply. The thrush skin infection appears usually on the mouth and tongue but can appear on mucus membrane such as the vagina.
Thrush appears as small white patches, which if rubbed off can leave a red mark. Vaginal thrush can be very itchy and cause a thick white discharge. Thrush can also appear on the penis as a red rash.
It is more commonly seen in newborns but anyone of any age can get thrush. Babies who have thrush may stop eating if they have it in their throats.
Individuals at risk for thrush infections are those who are have recently been on antibiotic therapy, have weakened immune systems, have been taking oral steroids or those who have diabetes.
Moist skin will be inviting to the thrush infection, so properly drying your skin after sweating or showering is a preventative measure. This type of infection can also occur when skin surface cannot allow for evaporation of sweat, so it is important to wear loose, light clothing when exercising.
Cuts and other openings to the skin that are not properly cared for can also encourage fungi to grow, so proper first aid care can prevent some infections.