Fungus on skin can be an embarrassing and an irritating thing to have. But then skin infections due to fungus are quite common. For instance, 20 percent of people in the US have Athlete’s Foot at one point of time. The fungi that reside on the skin are called dermatophytes, they live on keratin, a strong, fibrous protein that is present in your skin, hair and nails. The word ‘tinea’ that you will read in the fungal skin diseases below refer to dermatophytes.
Fungus on skin breeds due to warmth and moisture. That is why sweating is known to breed fungus. Allergens like dander, pollen, dirt on clothes etc can also increase the spread of fungi on the skin
Types of skin fungus and treatment
1. Ringworm (Tinea Corporis)- Tinea corporis is a skin fungus that forms on the extremities and the groin region of the body. This skin disease can affect more women compared to men, who suffer more from jock itch and athlete’s foot. A person can contact tinea corporis from other people, though contact with clothes and towels and even from animals like dogs and cats. Tinea Corporis is also known as ringworm. Please note that though this fungus on skin is called ‘ringworm’ it has nothing to do with the parasitic worm. The name is attributed to the shape of the ring caused by ringworm rashes. Acute tinea corporis spreads quickly to form red pustular lesions and patches. Chronic tinea corporis can spread slowly and form less severe rashes, though they are tougher to treat. Since it is a fungal infection, tinea corporis can be treated with anti-fungal creams and ointments, oral medications can also be administered.
2. Jock Itch (Tinea Cruris)- Jock itch can be quite itchy in nature and it is known to affect more men than women, though the females can get it as well. This type of fungus on skin is characterized by the formation of rash around the groin, thighs and the anus. The male genitalia as such are not affected. The rash is typified by a reddish brown formation in the middle and the edges that look scaly or bumpy. The skin can also burn, itch and form oozing blisters. Jock itch can follow another fungal infection on the skin, known as athlete’s foot. This happens mainly due to wearing underwear which moves from the feet up. So it is a good thing to wear socks first, in case you have athlete’s foot.
Treatment for jock itch includes topical creams that contain ingredients for fungal treatment like azoles and allylamines. The latter works faster but is mostly costly compared to azoles.
3. Tinea versicolor- This can affect the chest and back regions and also the upper arms and neck in some cases. In this kind of fungal infection, one sees discoloration of the skin. This happens because there are little spots on the skin that cause patches. These patches can be white, pink or tan. One can see that tinea versicolor affects the oily area of the skin in the upper body causing considerable itching.
The treatment for tinea vesicolor can be in the form of doctor prescribed antifungal creams or lotions. Sometimes the doctor may even give pills that contain fluconazole, ketoconazole and itraconazole. It can even take a few months for tinea versicolor to clear completely.
4. Athlete’s Foot (Tinea Pedis)- Tinea pedis, or athlete’s foot is the most common form of fungus on skin. 1 in every 5 people in the US at a given point of time suffers from Athlete’s Foot. As evident the skin disease can affect people who exercise with athletic shoes because the feet can become warm and moist due to sweating. Also people who take baths in swimming pools and public locker room can be at risk due to the spread of fungi.
Athlete’s foot is visible in the form of fissures and scales in the feet area, and in between the toes. It can also affect on other places of the foot, causing skin lesions on the soles, heels and sides of the feet. It can also lead to cracking and peeling of the skin, causing itching and burning.
Athlete’s feet can be treated with over the counter medications as well as prescribed topical antifungal creams, lotions and pills that contain fluconazole, itraconazole and terbinafine.
The chances of the fungus to reappear are very much possible, even after a good treatment. The best way is to prevent athlete’s foot; this can be done by changing socks frequently, wearing shoes that give more room for your feet, practicing good hygiene and avoiding direct contact with dirty water etc.
5. Candidiasis- Candida yeasts usually reside and affect the moist regions and folds of the body that can retain moisture like armpits, mouth, underside of women’s breasts, in between the toes, vagina, anus etc. Though jock’s itch does not affect the male genitalia per se, candidiasis can affect the penis. Also people who take antibiotics may find that they are prone to developing the disease because the medicine can kill the bacteria that can prevent the growth of candida. Obesity is also another cause of Candidiasis because there are too many folds in the body leading to the proliferation of the fungus. Candid which affect the lining of the vagina and the mouth is called yeast infection.
Candidiasis can be in the form of reddish rash with lesions and pustular lumps. When it affects the feet, it can confuse people with athlete’s foot. The skin area can also show scales and fissure formation. Also, the appearance of Candidiasis can differ depending on the areas of the skin that it is affecting.
Candidiasis treatment is in the form of anti-fungal creams and mediations. If over-the-counter medication does not work, you can go the doctor who will prescribe stronger medication as treatment.