It’s not always easy to spot a fungal infection. Sometimes, symptoms like flaking, itchiness, or blisters resemble other types of skin conditions. So how can you be sure of what you have, and how can you effectively treat fungal infections?
Simply put, fungi are what cause a fungal infection on the skin. Fungi come from spore-bearing plants that have no chlorophyll, like wild mushrooms. Fungi spores are tiny particles carried through the air, manifesting in growth like mold, mildew, and yeast.
These types of fungus are particularly prone to rapid growth when conditions are damp and dark with minimal ventilation (think basements.) But fungal growth can also happen on the surface of the skin. When mold, mildew, or yeast spores are inhaled or even touched, they can spread to the body, growing inside its warm, moist environment. Dermatophytes from the fungi thrive on dead tissue from nails and skin.
Fungal infections can also be spread from person to person. Such infections are common among athletic teams and in gyms. Fungus can also be picked up from surfaces like clothing, sheets, and towels. You can even get a fungal infection from acrylic fingernails. The glue used as an adhesive, known as methyl methacrylate, has been linked to fungal growth.
You may have heard of conditions like athlete’s foot and jock itch. These are pretty common forms of tinea (the dermatological term for fungal infection.) Such infections can be broadly categorized as “ringworm.”
Tinea barbae occurs on the beard or jawline, while tinea capitis shows up on the neck and scalp. Tinea cruris, known as jock itch, occurs in the groin area, while tinea pedis (AKA athlete’s foot) usually appears between the toes. And those nail infections we talked about are known as tinea unguium & tinea versicolor.
Depending on the location of the fungal infection, you might be looking at dry, flaky, peeling skin or red, inflamed blisters. Ringworm gets its name from the dark pink, round ring that appears on the skin.
Typically, over the counter or prescription antifungal creams or sprays will do the trick for a superficial fungal infection like athlete’s foot. If you use a cream or spray but it doesn’t fully eradicate the fungus, you may need a doctor to prescribe an oral antifungal drug.
On the other hand, you’ll definitely need an oral antifungal medication with a systemic fungal infection, like those taking place in the lungs or GI tract. It’s important to seek medical treatment quickly — not because fungal infections are serious but because they are very easily spread to others.
In order to prevent fungal infections from recurring, be sure to practice daily hygiene. Keep skin dry and change out of sweaty clothes quickly after a workout. Clean and disinfect the home, especially showers, tubs, and sinks, which are a breeding ground for mold and mildew. Wash clothes and sheets regularly.
If you’re struggling with a persistent fungal infection or need some help identifying your skin condition, call Vanguard Dermatology. We provide expert dermatological treatments to the greater New York City area.