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Fungal Infection Tips
The term mycosis (plural: mycoses) refers to conditions in which fungi pass the resistance barriers of the human body and establish infections.
Fungal infections of the skin most commonly affect the feet, groin, scalp or nails. Fungi grow best in arm, moist areas of the skin, such as between the toes, in the groin and the area beneath the breasts.
Last Updated -21st December 2005
Mycoses are classified according to the tissue levels initially colonized:
- Superficial mycoses - limited to the outermost layers of the skin and hair.
- Cutaneous mycoses - extend deeper into the epidermis, as well as invasive hair and nail diseases. These diseases are restricted to the keratinized layers of the skin, hair, and nails. Unlike the superficial mycoses, host immune responses may be evoked, resulting in pathologic changes expressed in the deeper layers of the skin. The organisms that cause these diseases are called dermatophytes. The resulting diseases are often called ringworm (even though there is no worm involved) or tinea. Cutaenous mycoses are caused by Microsporum, Trichophyton, and Epidermophyton fungi, which together comprise 41 species.
- Subcutaneous mycoses - involve the dermis, subcutaneous tissues, muscle, and fascia. These infections are chronic and can be initiated by piercing trauma to the skin, which allows the fungi to enter. These infections are difficult to treat and may require surgical interventions such as debridement.
- Systemic mycoses - originate primarily in the lungs and may spread to many organ systems. Organisms that cause systemic mycoses are inherently virulent. All fungi that generally cause systemic mycoses except Cryptococcus are dimorphic fungi.
- Opportunistic mycoses - infections of patients with immune deficiencies who would otherwise not be infected. Examples of immunocompromised conditions include AIDS, alteration of normal flora by antibiotics, immunosuppressive therapy, and metastatic cancer. Examples of opportunistic mycoses include Candidiasis and Aspergillosis.Examples of Fungal Infections
- Athlete's foot is the most common fungal skin infection. Symptoms include cracked, blistered and peeling areas between the toes; redness and scaling on the soles of the feet; and itching. Athlete's foot often reoccurs and must be treated each time.
- Jock itch causes severe itching and moistness on the skin of the groin and upper thighs. There may be red, scaly, raised areas on the skin that weep or ooze pus or clear fluid.
- Ringworm is a fungal infection that grows on the outer layer of skin, hair or nails. It is more common in children than in adults. It appears as patches that are clear in the center and have edges that are red, peeling or have blister-like bumps. The skin is often very itchy and the rash can quickly spread. On the scalp and beard, ringworm appears as round or oval patches of baldness which may be scaly, red, crusty or swollen with little blister-like bumps. The hair on the scalp and beard may have flakes that look like dandruff.
- Thrush is a yeast infection that occurs in the mouth, especially in babies. It causes a white coating inside the mouth, often on the cheeks, that may look like milk but is hard to remove.
- Fungal infections of the fingernails and toenails cause discoloration, thickening and often softening of the nails. They are difficult to treat and often cause permanent damage to the nails.
Prevention And Home Treatment
- Keep your feet clean, cool and dry.
- Dry well between the toes after swimming or bathing.
- Wear shoes that allow your feet to "breathe"
- Wear cotton socks to absorb sweat.
- Give shoes 24 hours to dry between wearings.
- Wear thongs or shower sandals in public pools and showers.
- Keep your groin area clean and dry.
- Wash and dry well, especially after exercising, and apply talcum powder to absorb moisture.
- Wear cotton underwear.
- Avoid tight pants, underwear and pantyhose.
- Do not play with pets that have bald or mangy spots on their coats.
- Do not share hats, combs, brushes, washcloths or towels.
- For athlete's foot and jock itch, use a nonprescription antifungal powder or lotion.
- Do not use hydrocortisone cream on a fungal infection.
- Treat ringworm with an antifungal.
When To Call A Physician
- If signs of infection are present.
- If you have diabetes and develop athlete's foot as people with diabetes are at an increased risk of infection.
- If you experience a sudden loss of patches of hair associated with flaking, broken hairs and inflammation of the scalp.
- If several members of your household are experiencing hair loss.
- If ringworm is severe and spreading or is present on the scalp.
- If home treatment fails to improve after 2 weeks or if it fails to clear up after 1 month.
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