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Fungal Infection - Symptom, Treatment And Causes

Last Updated: Mar 14, 2020

What are fungal infections?

Fungal infection is also known as mycoses and this happens when the invasion of tissue is done by one or more species of fungi or yeast. Fungai can lead to skin conditions such as deep tissue infections or any serious problem in the lungs or blood.

What are the signs and symptoms of fungal infections?

The signs and symptoms of fungal infections depend upon the following:

  • Cracking or peeling of the skin
  • Itching
  • Redness or blisters
  • Burning sensation

But most of the time the symptoms are according to the affected area, what is its type and where it has occurred.

Different types of fungal infections:

These are the different types of fungal infection:

1. Athlete's foot:

This is a type of fungal infection that affects the foot of a person. As the name suggests athlete’s foot most commonly occur to the sportsperson because of the environment they play in which is damp, full of moisture, and sweaty. But anyone can get affected with athlete’s foot, not an only sportsperson. Most of the times occur in the warm months.

  • The symptoms are: Blisters or redness on the affected area, the skin can become soft or may form layers, cracking up or peeling of the skin, burning sensation on the affected area.
  • Prevention: It can be prevented by allowing a lot of air to penetrate into socks or shoes. The foot must be kept dry and clean, Do not wear sandals, or shoes the public locker rooms.

2. Yeast infection:

yeast infections most commonly occur in the vagina and is a common form of candida which is a yeast infection. When there is an overgrowth of candida it interrupts the normal balance of yeast and bacteria in the vagina. Most of the time this happens due to stress, antibiotics, or hormonal imbalance. Candida can also be responsible for causing fungal infection of toenails or diaper rashes.

  • Symptoms: Itching or swelling around the vagina, pain during urination and sexual intercourse, burning sensation, unusual discharge from vagina, redness or soreness around the vagina.
  • Prevention: You should begin a proper diet and hygiene must be followed. Tight clothes should not be worn, washing underwear in hot water to avoid any kind of infection.

3. Jock itch:

Fungi which are responsible for jock itch grows mostly in the damp area that is groin, inner thighs, buttocks. Jock itch is most common in warm, or humid places. It is also mildly contagious and can spread through direct contact with a person who is having an infection.

  • Symptoms: Chafing, irritation, burning of the affected area, rashes, redness of the area affected by jock itch, peeling, cracking, or flaking of the affected area.
  • Prevention: it can be prevented by wearing loose clothes, natural fiber clothes must be worn, avoid contact with an infected person, keep clean and dry the areas which can be affected.

4. Ringworm:

This is caused by a fungus which lives on the dead tissues, for example on nails, hair, skin. Ringworm is responsible for causing both athlete’s foot and jock itch. But apart from these two if it occurs in any other part of the body then it is called ringworm.

  • Symptoms: Red or scaly patches on the skin, spreading and forming other rings, redness, patches, scaly skin.
  • Prevention: To prevent ringworm from happening a person must remain clean, dry and hygienic, do not wear sandals or shoes at the public locker room, etc.

What are the causes of fungal infection?

Fungus is unable to grow in healthy, immune-competent hosts. It is only when fungi accidentally penetrate the skin or mucous membranes and when immunologic defects or other debilitating conditions exist in the host. All of these conditions are favorable for fungal colonization and growth occurs.

When C.albicans is associated with the fungal infection, it may indicate that the patient has a coexisting immune, endocrine or other debilitating disorder. In most cases, the underlying dysfunction must be treated to manage the fungal infection effectively.

Fungal infections have advanced mechanisms that facilitate their multiplication in the host. Other factors like capsule production by C neoformans and the adherence properties of Candida species to host tissues also contribute to their pathogenicity. In general, fungi that cause systemic disease grow and multiply at 37 degrees centigrade.

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How fungal infections are spread?

Fungi reproduce by spreading into microscopic pores. They mostly spread through soil, air, dirt. Thus can be inhaled through the air or can even spread through contact with the body, or primarily through the skin. Fungal infection can also occur or begin in the lungs or skin.

How fungal infections can be diagnosed?

Diagnosis of fungal infections can be done by:

  1. Athlete’s foot: It is diagnosed by the doctor by scraping down of the infected skin of the person’s foot then they inspect it under the microscope by checking evidence of the fungus.
  2. Jock itch: Skin sample from the affected area is taken from the infected areas then it is checked if it is exactly jock itch or not.
  3. Ringworm: If there are symptoms of ringworm then the doctor takes a sample of the skin and inspect if there is any fungus or not. After which proper treatment is done and medicine is prescribed by the doctor.
  4. Yeast infection: In this vaginal walls and cervix is examined by taking cells from the vaginal walls. It is done by the proper diagnoses.

How fungal infections are treated?

These are the ways fungal infection can be treated.

  1. Athlete’s Foot:

    It is treated with topical antifungal ointment and if the conditions become severe then additional medications are also provided by the doctor. Till the time infection is not completely treated the feet must be kept dry and must be taken care off.

  2. Yeast infection:

    The treatment of yeast infection depends upon the severity of the disease. Treatment items of yeast infection include creams, tablets, or suppositories. But if the disease becomes complex then there will be the requirement of complex treatment.

  3. Jock Itch:

    The proper treatment involves topical creams, and by doing proper hygiene. Doctors can also provide over the counter medications, and some of them may even require a prescription.

  4. Ringworm:

    It can be treated by using creams, ointments, and medications that are prescribed by the doctor.

What is the best medicine for fungal infection?

Antifungal medicines work by killing the fungal cells, affecting the cell wall causing the fungal cells to leak and die. They also help by preventing the growth and reproduction of fungal cells.

Some common antifungal medicines are:

  • Clotrimazole
  • Econazole
  • Miconazole
  • Terbinafine
  • Fluconazole
  • Ketoconazole
  • Amphotericin

Other serious fungal infections like Aspergillosis affecting lungs and fungal meningitis affecting the brain need hospitalization. Risk of fungal infections is more if you have a weakened immune system like in pregnancy or HIV.

Antifungals are also available as :

  • topical antifungals creams, ointment, gel or spray that can be applied to the skin, hair or nail directly.
  • oral antifungals tablets, capsules or syrups.
  • Intravenous antifungals drugs
  • intravaginal antifungals which come as small soft tablets that can be inserted into the vagina.

How fungal infections can be prevented?

Prevention of fungal infection can be done by the following methods:

  1. By keeping the skin clean and dry.
  2. By not sharing towels, combs or any other personal item.
  3. By wearing shoes to the gym.
  4. By washing your feet daily.
  5. By keeping your groin and private parts clean.
  6. By wearing clean and loose clothes.
  7. By practicing hygiene.
  8. By using topical medication for minor skin infection.

How long does it take for a fungal skin infection to clear up?

Fungal infection can take up to a few days to a few months to heal completely. If fungal infection is deep inside the tissue then it takes up to 2 years to heal and if the immune system of the function is weak then the treatment and management of fungal infections have to be done for the rest of their lives.

How to cure fungal infection on skin naturally?

Some of the methods used for treating antifungal skin infection naturally are:

  1. Turmeric: It contains curcumin which has anti-microbial properties and anti-inflammatory properties.
  2. Apple cider vinegar: It has anti-fungal action which aids against itchiness and dryness caused by ringworm.
  3. Neem leaf extracts: This act as an antifungal and is capable of removing pathogens and dermophytes of the skin.
  4. Coconut oil: This oil consist of fatty acids that aid in destroying the cell wall of the fungus.
  5. Oregano oil: Wild oregano contains thymol and carvacrol that can stop the growth of fungus.
  6. Garlic: It is an effective remedy against ringworm infection. It also helps in managing Trichophyton, Torulopsis, Candida and Cryptococcus.
  7. Tea tree oil: This is beneficial because of its antibacterial and antifungal properties. It helps in detoxification of the infected area and decreases inflammation.

What are the home remedies for fungal infection?

Home remedies for fungal infection commonly used are as follows:

  • Garlic
  • Soapy water:Clean and rinse the infected area with soap and water once or twice daily. Further, dry the wound well, as fungus thrives in a moist environment.
  • Apple cider vinegar: It has antifungal action against candida but to treat ringworm, soak cotton in undiluted vinegar and apply over the wound.
  • Aloe vera: It has antiviral, antiseptic, antibacterial and3 antifungal properties. Apply the gel over the wound and leave it for some time.
  • Coconut oil: Fatty acids in coconut oil has antifungal properties that damage the cell membranes.
  • Grapefruit seed extract
  • Turmeric: It contains curcumin which has anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Powdered liquorice: It also has antiviral, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Tea tree oil
  • Oil of oregano: This contains antifungal agents thymol and carvacrol which can destroy Candida albicans.
  • Lemongrass oil: It decreases the activity of variety of fungus.

References

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Written ByDr. Neha Anand Gadodia MBBS Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery,DNB - Dermatology & VenereologyDermatology
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