Ugh, the Itching Truth
Everyone wants to have a flawless skin. Fungal skin infections can be very embarrassing because many people consider this as a disease of those people who have poor hygiene and sanitation. Signs and symptoms of fungal infections may vary from one person to another. These can be uncomfortable due to discolorations, scaling, foul smell and itchiness. Fungal infections takes a longer time to heal than other skin infections because of the fungal spores that would require longer treatments and can cause a low self-esteem on the beholder. The symptoms can be very embarrassing because everyone wants to have a healthy looking skin, without the scaling and peeling. Many people believe that these infection are acquired from unsanitary saunas, showers, contaminated linens, clothes and shoes.
What are fungi?
A fungus is a member of a large group of microorganisms which include the yeasts and molds and mushrooms. There are certain types of fungi that may be harmless but can live on the skin of human beings and produce signs and symptoms of an infection.
Types of Fungal Skin Infections
- Dermatophytosis – This includes the famous “Athlete’s Foot”, that causes severe itchiness and foul smell when the affected person removes his shoes. Dermatophytosis, or Tinea fungal infection, is a group of fungal infections that affect the epidermis and is usually classified according to the specific body part where they are found.
- Tinea Capitis – ringworm of the scalp (from the word, “caput”, which means “head”)
- Tinea barbae – ringworm of the beard
- Tinea faciei – ringworm of the face
- Tinea corporis – ringworm of the body
- Tinea manus – ringworm of the hand
- Tinea pedis – ringworm of the foot (Athlete’s foot)
- Tinea cruris – ringworm of the groin (jock itch)
- Tinea unguium – ringworm of the nails (Onchomycosis)
- Tinea Versicolor – This is caused by the fungi, Maleassezia furfurthat causes the characteristic fine or delicate scaly, nummular patches. It produces a yellow to brown lesions and patches in pale skinned people while light or hypopigmented lesions and patches on dark skinned people. It causes mild itching and inflammation on the skin. This occurs to young adults who perspire. Freely. Fungi love to settle and contaminate areas that are usually wet like those parts that usually perspire a lot. Common parts are the sterna region, sides of the chest, abdomen, pubic areas, back, neck, palms and soles, face and scalp.
- Candidiasis/Moniliasis – A fungal infection that is caused by Candida albicans. Candida albicans become a pathogen from a normal habitat if there are changes in the area. These become opportunistic pathogens that usually attack when the person has a low immune system, has a systemic infection, or is using immunosuppressant drugs. It is one of the most commonly suspected infections associated with persons having HIV infection or AIDS. It is the most frequently occuring human fungal skin infection. It is usually caused by warmth, moisture and maceration of the skin, which permits the organism to thrive. They are usually found in intertriguinous areas—areas such as the perianal, inguinal fossa, interdigital areas, nail folds and axillae. It can also spread to the genitourinary tract and mouth which is more commonly known as the “oral thrush.” The characteristic white and cheesy lesions or discharge are usually found on the areas affected. Severe cases of candidiasis can lead to candidal systemic infection and may require intravenous antibiotics to treat the infection.
- Intertrigo – these are superficial inflammatory dermatitis occurring where two skin surfaces that are in opposition like the skin folds, due to constant friction, heat, moisture and maceration. These can be secondary infections, or infections that become a result of another infection. It commonly occurs on hot, humid weather. Signs and symptoms of intertrigo are skin erosion, skin fissure, exudation, burning sensation and severe itchiness. Most commonly affected areas are the retroaurecular areas (back of ear), folds of upper eyelids, creases of the neck, axillae, antecubital and popliteal areas, finger webs and toe webs, umbilicus and folds of the belly, inguinal, perineal, and the intergluteal folds.
- Candidal Intertrigo – This is caused again by the famous, Candida albicans. It causes pruritic intertriguinous eruptions. It is pinkish in color and produce moist patches that are surrounded by a macerated epidermis, often by adjacent white pustules. These are scaly with a tender enough to cause fissures. Persistent excoriation, lichenification and drying can be very uncomfortable and itchy and may also alter the original appearance of the skin even after treatment.
Treatment of Fungal Skin Infections
Usual agents found in the market are topical lotions, creams, shampoo, and gels of over-the-counter drugs such as Clotrimazole, Miconazole, Ketoconazole (Nizoral), Econazole, Oximazole, and other antifungals from the azole group are effective treatments for skin, foot, and nail fungal infection. The person is advised not to scratch the affected area even though it is very itchy to prevent excoriation and secondary skin infections to occur. It is advisable to use non-residual and non-perfume antibacterial soaps that leave the skin dry for faster relief. Keeping the skin free of moist is also a plus. Treatment also includes proper hygiene and treating towels, shoes, socks, bathrooms with disinfectant to avoid re-infection.