Fungal Infections: Types, Symptoms, Causes and Prevention

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Every individual once in their lifetime may have dealt with a Fungal Infection in some or other parts of the body. These infections are a part of fungi growth, perhaps the harmful fungi that thrive on different body parts due to numerous external and internal factors. Most of the fungi that are difficult to kill often invade the body parts, grow, and then re-infect the individual to survive. Some fungal infections are mild and they may disappear on their own, whereas others may display symptoms and survive for long, or until treated. 

What are Fungi? What is a Fungal Infection?

Before getting into the types of Fungal Infections that commonly affect humans, let’s first understand Fungi in brief:

Fungi are diverse groups of microorganisms that thrive in various environments, from air, soil, and plants to animals and humans. These microorganisms, called chitin, are hidden in the cell walls and include yeast, mold, and mushrooms.

What are Fungi

Some fungi are known for their beneficial role, like decomposing matter and aiding the nutrient cycle; others, when invading the body, can lead to numerous health issues. When these microorganisms (Fungi) invade the body, they multiply, affecting different body parts and leading to various kinds of infections. These infections can commonly affect the skin, mucous membranes, respiratory tract, and sometimes even nails. 

Are there Types of Fungal Infections?

Yes, there are different types of fungal infections, each affecting various body parts with similar or different symptoms. Also, many of them are harmful, but the guide below contains all the infections harmful to humans.

Types of Fungal Infections and Their Symptoms, Causes, and Prevention

1. Athelet’s Foot or Tinea Pedis

Athelet’s Foot is a common infection that affects the skin of the feet. As its name suggests, the infection is common amongst Athletes, especially those who wear shoes for a long time, leaving their feet in a moist and sweaty environment. 

Symptoms: Blisters on feet or itching, burning, redness of peeling of skin, particularly between the toes.

Causes: The infection is commonly caused when the fungus is allowed to thrive in a moist, sweaty, or damp environment. The familiar places to catch it are either public showers or other commonly shared spaces among athletes.

Prevention: To prevent Athelet’s Foot

  • Always keep your feet clean and dry.
  • Wear breathable shoes.
  • Change your shocks regularly, and wear cotton socks, preferably.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public.

2. Ringworm or Tinea Corposis

Ringworm is one of the most common types of fungal infection in which a circular, ring-shaped rash occurs on the skin. It often affects the skin and scalp and grows in humid, moist, and damp parts of the body.

Symptoms: Red, itchy, circular, ring-shaped rashes on the skin. Bald patches on the scalp or patches on the skin that start to ooze after a while.

Causes: Ringworms are often spread by touching contaminated surfaces or coming into skin-to-skin contact with the infested person or pet.

Prevention: To prevent Ringworm,

  • Practice personal hygiene
  • Avoid sharing personal belongings, especially towels, clothes, and other hygiene stuff.
  • Treat infested people or pets.

3. Candidiasis

Candidiasis isn’t a single but a group of fungal infections that are most commonly caused by the Candida species. This infection can occur in different body parts and is often characterized by the overgrowth of yeast.

Symptoms: White patches on the tongue and inner cheeks, along with occasional redness and pain. Itching, burning, redness, or abnormal discharge amongst women. Red, itchy rashes, or in some cases, fever, and chills.

Causes: Wrong or excessive antibiotic usage, weakened immune system, poor personal hygiene, high sugar levels, and hormonal changes or disturbances.

Prevention: To prevent Candidiasis,

  • Practice good hygiene.
  • Wear loose, breathable clothes.
  • Consume probiotics to maintain a healthy balance of microorganisms in the body.
  • Avoid antibiotic overuse.
  • Manage diabetes.
  • Practice safe sex.

4. Jock Itch or Tinea Cruris

Jock Itch is a common fungal infection and a part of larger infections known as dermatophytoses. It affects the skin in the groin area as well as the buttocks and inner thighs. 

Symptoms: Itching often leads to discomfort, redness, and rashes in the groin area, buttock and inner things, flaking, scaling, and burning sensation.

Causes: Jock itch typically thrives in a warm and moist environment making the groin area more susceptible. The infection often occurs due to tight clothing, fungal overgrowth, poor hygiene, and sharing contaminated items. 

Prevention: To prevent Jock Itch,

  • Always wear loose cotton clothing, especially innerwear.
  • Keep the groin area clean and dry.
  • Change wet and sweaty clothes.
  • Practice personal hygiene and avoid sharing personal clothes.
  • Use antifungal creams or powders.

Also Check: How To Cure Fungal Infection On Skin Naturally? Is Fungal Infection Dangerous?

5. Fungal Nail Infection or Onychomycosis

Onychomycosis is an infection that commonly affects toenails and fingernails. Also known as Tinea Unguium, the infection may also affect the nail bed.

Symptoms: Thickened nails, thicker than usual, nail discoloration, probably white, yellow, or brown, brittle or crumby nails, and distorted shape. 

Causes: Fungi or yeast growth, exposure to public showers and swimming pools, nail trauma, weakened immune system, aging, and pre-existing conditions like diabetes psoriasis.

Prevention: To prevent fungal nail infection,

  • Always keep your feet dry.
  • Wear breathable, non-rubbery footwear.
  • Practice good foot hygiene.
  • Protect nails from any trauma or injury.
  • Avoid walking barefoot in public.

6. Pityriasis Versicolor or Tinea Versicolor

Pityriasis Versicolor is an infectious condition characterized by the development of discolored patches on the skin. It often affects teens and young adults; however, the condition isn’t contagious like many others. It occurs on the back, chest, neck, and upper arm region.

Symptoms: Discolored (light or dark) patches on the skin, scaling, and mild itching. 

Causes: Oily skin, hot and humid weather, weakened immune system, hormonal changes, and most commonly, Malassezia yeast.

Prevention: To prevent Pityriasis Versicolor

  • Wear breathable cotton clothes.
  • Keep the skin clean and dry.
  • Use antifungal soaps.

Read More: Ear Infections Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Conclusion

These were the 6 common Fungal Infections with all the details associated with them. Infections caused by fungi can be uncomfortable, and living with them is not pleasant at all. Although most of them are cured in a few weeks, some may take even longer.

When dealing with any of the conditions above, make sure you see a doctor so that they can diagnose the condition and suggest appropriate medication and topical treatments. Avoid using any cosmetic creams or powder (and even coconut oil) since they can worsen the condition, making treatment even more difficult. Overall, worry not; most of them are treatable, and reaching the doctor in time can help you with ease.

References

  • Da Rosa D.W., Gezuele E., Calegari L., Goñi F. Asteroid body in sporotrichosis. Yeast viability and biological significance within the host immune response. Med. Mycol. 2008;46(5):443–448. [PubMed]
  • Berman J., Krysan D.J. Drug resistance and tolerance in fungi. Nat. Rev. Microbiol. 2020;18(6):319–331. [PMC free article]

Dr. David G Kiely is a distinguished Medical Reviewer and former General Medicine Consultant with a wealth of experience in the field. Dr. Kiely's notable career as a General Medicine Consultant highlights his significant contributions to the medical field.

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