Fungal Infection: Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Superficial fungal infection of the skin, commonly known as ringworms, is a contagious skin infection caused by various species of fungus.

The name “ringworm” probably comes from the rash that many people see. On the skin, the rash often has a ring-shaped pattern and a raised, scaly border that snakes its way around the edge like a worm.

Fungal infection is a common illness and occurs in the following forms -

  • Jock Itch
  • Athlete’s Foot
  • Scalp Ringworm

Ringworm can appear on any part of your body, including soles, palms, scalp, groin, and nails.

Causes of Fungal Infection

Certain types of fungi are known to cause ringworm. These fungi thrive in warm and humid conditions. They are more prevalent in tropical areas and during hot, humid summers, especially in warm, moist locker rooms and indoor pools.

You can also get ringworm when the weather is cool because ringworm is extremely contagious.

The spores of fungi that cause ringworm can be present on any infected object, including clothing, brushes, and sports equipment for a long time.

Types of Fungal Infection

How Can One Get Fungal Infection?

It's possible to get ringworm from:

  • Having skin-to-skin contact with an infected person.
  • Petting an animal like a dog, cat, or farm animal infected with ringworm.
  • Touching soil infected with ringworm.
  • Using an infected object like a phone, comb, or towel.

Symptoms of Fungal Infection

Fungal infections affect different parts on the body, that show various symptoms:

Skin

  • Skin with ringworm infection presents as round patches that have a raised, scaly border.
  • On light-coloured skin, the patches tend to be red or pink while in dark skinned individuals these patches appear as brown or grey in colour.
  • Patches can grow slowly, increasing in size and appearing on more areas of the body.
  • The centre of a patch tends to clear first.
  • The patches can be intensely itchy.

Feet with ringworm infection (athlete's foot).

  • Itching, burning, and stinging on your soles and between your toes.
  • Dry, scaly skin that usually begins between the toes and can spread to the bottom of the feet, sides, or both.
  • Peeling skin​.
  • Blisters, painful cracking skin, bleeding, and thick patches of red and scaly skin.
  • Skin between the toes turns white, becoming soft and mushy.
  • Foul odour.
  • Rash on one or both hands because touching the infected foot can spread the infection to your hands.

Hand with ringworm infection

  • Widespread, dry skin on the palm.
  • Infection may spread to the fingernails.
  • Ring-shaped patches on the back of the hand.
  • Deep cracks on the palms.
  • Can be mistaken for extremely dry skin or dry, thick skin due to working with hands.

Nails with ringworm infection

  • Can infect one or several nails.
  • Begins with thickening of the tissue under the nail (nail bed).
  • Nails discolour and thicken.
  • Thickened nails may start to lift away from the nail bed.
  • Crumbling nails.
  • Disappearing nails (in time, you see less of the nails)

Beard area with ringworm infection

  • Intense redness and swelling.
  • Pus-filled bumps.
  • Hair loss (hair often returns when ringworm is treated).
  • Swollen lymph nodes.
  • Raw, open skin.
  • Raised soft, spongy skin that weeps fluid.
  • A skin problem that looks like acne, folliculitis, or another skin condition.
  • Some men feel tired and rundown.

Preventing Fungal Infection: Steps to Follow

    • Use clean towels and avoid sharing personal items like towels, socks, and shoes.
    • After bathing or swimming, ensure that your skin is thoroughly dry, especially in skin folds.
    • Opt for loose-fitting clothing made of breathable fabrics like cotton to allow air circulation and minimise sweating. Avoid tight clothing that can trap moisture and create a damp environment.
    • Keep your feet clean and dry, especially between the toes. Wear moisture-wicking socks and breathable footwear.
    • Keep nails clean, trimmed, and dry. Avoid biting or picking at nails, as it can create openings for fungal infection.
    • Avoid sharing personal items like towels, combs, brushes, hats, or shoes with others, as these items can harbour fungal spores and contribute to the spread of infections.

Cure Fungal Infection With The Best Dermatologist In Delhi NCR: DermaSure Clinic

Fungal Infection of the skin is a bothersome disease that can fester if left untreated. While making it difficult for the infected person to perform daily tasks, fungal infection also has an impact on the person’s self-esteem in the long run.

At DermaSure, we generally treat fungal infection with antifungal medicine in the form of creams, ointments, and pills. What you use will depend on the area of the body that needs treatment:

  • Skin

    An antifungal ointment or cream often clears ringworm on the skin. Most of these medicines you apply twice a day for two to four weeks. If the ringworm covers a large area of skin, you may need to take a prescription antifungal medicine.

  • Athlete’s foot

    An antifungal cream or spray that you buy without a prescription may clear an athlete's foot. A mild case usually clears in two weeks. If the athlete’s foot is more severe or fails to clear in two weeks, a dermatologist can prescribe stronger medicine.

  • Jock itch

    Usually, antifungal cream, spray, or powder are useful in the treatment without a prescription. You typically apply the antifungal twice a day for 10 to 14 days. In chronic cases, consulting the dermatologist becomes necessary.

  • Scalp

    On the scalp, fungal infection requires prescription medicine.

  • Hands

    In this case, stronger antifungal medicine like terbinafine or itraconazole is necessary. If the ringworm has spread to a fingernail, you will need to take antifungal medicine for a longer time to get rid of the infection.

  • Nails

    Because nails grow slowly, the fungal infection of nails takes slightly longer time to clear. You may also need to follow preventive measures to avoid reinfection.

  • Beard

    Ringworm in the beard area requires antifungal medicine and a tailor-made treatment plan. Your dermatologist may need to remove unhealthy tissue to help the area heal. You’ll also need to shave the infected hair.

Frequently Asked Questions

Yes, fungal infections can be contagious and easily transmitted from person to person or through contact with contaminated surfaces. It's important to take precautions to prevent spreading the infection to others or acquiring it from an infected individual.

Anyone can develop a fungal infection, but certain factors can increase the risk. These include having a weakened immune system, prolonged moisture or sweat on the skin, living in crowded or humid environments, wearing tight or non-breathable shoes, having close contact with infected individuals or animals, and using public facilities like gyms or swimming pools.

While most fungal infections primarily affect the skin, nails, or mucous membranes, certain types of fungi can cause systemic infections that affect internal organs. These systemic fungal infections are more common in individuals with compromised immune systems, such as those with HIV/AIDS, undergoing chemotherapy, or receiving organ transplants.

Some natural remedies and home treatments may offer relief and support the healing process for mild cases of fungal infections. These can include using over-the-counter antifungal creams, applying tea tree oil, using vinegar or baking soda soaks, maintaining good hygiene practices, and keeping the affected area clean and dry. However, it's important to consult a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis and to ensure appropriate treatment, especially for more severe or persistent infections.

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