If you’ve ever had a common cold or a sinus infection, you know how bacteria and viruses can affect your health. But fungi, the lesser known pathogen, causes its fair share of damage as well, including allergies, asthma, and blood issues. But the most common fungal conditions are infections of the skin and nails.
It’s important to learn the signs of a fungal infection so you can stop it before it progresses. It’s also important to have an expert dermatologist who can help you determine exactly what type of fungal infection you have and get you started on the right treatment.
Dr. Robert Topham at Holladay Dermatology & Aesthetics here in Holladay, Utah, diagnoses and treats all kinds of fungal infections and can help you navigate the complex world of skin care. Here’s what you need to know about fungal infections.
Facts about fungi
Fungi are organisms that live in soil, water, vegetation, animals, and humans. Some fungi decompose dead matter and play an important role in the life cycle of an ecosystem. Other fungi (about 300 of the millions of fungus types) are parasitic and cause disease and infection.
Many forms of fungus are harmless, such as the yeast in bread and beer and the mushrooms on your salad or burger. However, if a harmful type of fungus invades your body, it can affect your health, particularly your skin and nails.
Types of a fungal infection
Fungal infections of the skin and nails typically fall into one of four categories: athlete’s foot, yeast infections, jock itch, and ringworm.
1. Athlete’s foot
Fungi love warm, wet environments, which is why they thrive between the toes of sweaty athletes. In fact, it’s so common in the sports world that the medical term for this type of fungal infection, tinea pedis, is widely known as athlete’s foot.
It begins as an itchy, scaly rash that may sting and burn. Although it typically originates between your toes, it spreads quickly and can affect your whole foot. It can even infect your hands if you touch and scratch your infected feet.
2. Yeast infections
Under normal circumstances, small amounts of yeast in your body are harmless, but if it multiplies, yeast causes infections called candidiasis.
If the yeast grows in your mouth and throat — a condition called thrush — you’ll notice pain when swallowing, white or yellow patches in your mouth, cracks at the corners of your mouth, and a red, sore throat and mouth.
Yeast can also affect the genitals, especially in women. The vaginal environment is perfect for yeast growth. Symptoms of infection include itching, burning (especially when you urinate), inflammation, and a discharge that resembles cottage cheese.
Diaper rash is a form of yeast infection that occurs when a baby’s skin is in contact with a wet diaper for prolonged periods.
Toenails are another notorious place for a yeast infection. If you have a nail injury, diabetes, a weakened immune system, or a circulatory problem, yeast can easily set up camp in your nails and cause them to become thickened, yellow or brown in color, cracked, and crumbly.
3. Jock itch
Technically called tinea cruris, jock itch is another fungal infection common to athletes who sweat a lot.
Although not usually a serious condition, it can be extremely bothersome, as it causes reddened patches on the groin, buttocks, and inner thighs that can be painful and itchy.
Ringworm, or tinea corporis, is a misnomer, as the culprit is fungus, not a worm of any type. It got its name from the shape of the red rash or lesion it causes. Jock itch is technically a type of ringworm.
The classic ringworm symptom is a rash that forms a ring shape with red edges, but it may also present with blisters or red, itchy raised patches of skin. Ringworm can attack your body anywhere, including your scalp.
Healing a fungal infection
The best way to avoid fungal infections and manage a current one is to adjust your daily habits:
- Dry yourself thoroughly after showering or swimming
- Wear loose clothing, especially on hot, humid days
- Don’t sit around in a wet bathing suit
- Change damp socks and undergarments
If you contract a fungal infection, there are many over-the-counter lotions and ointments that may reduce your symptoms for a while, but if you find them ineffective, Dr. Topham can prescribe a stronger treatment to get rid of the fungus for good.
He recommends two powerful antifungal medications: FungiFoam® and Formula 3®. These topical solutions contain tolnaftate, an ingredient found in many antifungal products, but in prescription strength. FungiFoam and Formula 3 also contain jojoba oil, which is known for its ability to kill certain yeasts and fungi, including those that cause candidiasis.
Fungal infections can be tough to get rid of, but Dr. Topham can help. If you have symptoms of a fungal infection and it’s not getting better, schedule an appointment today. Call us at 801-272-4408.