Friday, May 18, 2012

Tips to treat fungal infection

Skin fungi are a group of microorganisms that cause skin infections. Some fungi, like yeast, are naturally present in the human body. Dermatophytes are opportunistic organisms. When they are exposed to a favorable environment, they grow on the human body and infect the top layer of the skin as well as the nails or hair. Different types of fungal skin infections are ringworm (Tinea corporis), athlete's foot (Tinea pedis), nail ringworm (Tinea unguium), jock itch (Tinea cruris), beard ringworm (Tinea barbae), scalp ringworm (Tinea capitis) and Candida. In rare cases, an overgrowth of such fungi can cause the infection to reach the bloodstream or internal organs due to invasion through deep layers of the skin.

Risk Factors for Fungal Infections

The risk factors for skin fungal infections are listed below.
  • Antibiotic Use: Antibiotics are used to treat various bacterial infections. These medications can decrease the number of helpful bacteria normally living inside the body. When the population of beneficial bacteria decrease in the body, opportunistic fungi get an opportunity to invade and colonize.
  • Use of Corticosteroids: Corticosteroids are used to reduce inflammation and a number of skin disorders. These drugs arrest inflammation by suppressing the body's immune response and this immune-system suppression creates favorable conditions for growth of fungi and other opportunistic infectious agents.

  • Compromised Immune System: Our immune system may get depressed due to chemotherapy (for cancer treatment) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Because of such a weakened immune system, fungi get an opportunity to grow. For the same reason, people suffering from diseases such as diabetes and some types of cancer, e.g., leukemia, are also more prone to deep fungal infections.

  • Environmental Factors: Moisture is required for fungi to grow and reproduce. Fungal infections mostly affect the moist areas of the body including the vagina and mouth. Sweaty shoes and clothes increase the possibility of fungal infections. Locker rooms or showers are perfect breeding and spreading grounds for fungi as they get attracted to moist areas.
  • Heredity: Some people have a genetic predisposition towards fungal infections. They are more likely to acquire fungal infections when exposed to an infection-prone atmosphere.
Symptoms of Fungal Skin Infections

The symptoms of the fungal infection may vary with the causative agent. However, they generally appear as a rash. Let's see some of the most common skin fungus symptoms.
  • Ringworm causes ring-shaped, slightly itchy, red or pink raised patches with a clear center.
  • Jock itch appears as a ring-like red rash around the groin area. It is in the form of small, painful, extremely itchy blisters.
  • Athlete's foot appears as an itchy, scaly rash between the toes. There may be mild irritation or cracking and peeling of the skin. The skin becomes sore and susceptible to bacterial infection.
  • Scalp ringworm is highly contagious among children and takes the form of scaly, itchy patches on the scalp.
  • Nail ringworm affects toenails and makes the nails appear dull and thickened. The infected part of the nail may fall apart from the rest of the nail.
  • Candida infection typically occurs in moist and warm areas of the body such as skin folds and diaper areas. Superficial candida skin infection appears as a red, flat rash with scalloped, sharp edges.
  • Small patches appearing like a rash are known as satellite lesions. They can cause pain or itching.
  • Sometimes, a fungal infection on one body part can cause a rash on another body part. This condition is known as an allergic reaction to fungus.
Diagnosis of Skin Fungal Infections
If the patient has a risk factor and if a characteristic rash is seen, then there is a strong possibility of a fungal infection. The type of skin fungus can be determined by two methods: potassium hydroxide (KOH) preparation and fungal culture method.

Treatment for Skin Fungal Infections

A depressed immune system, use of antibiotics or corticosteroids and medical conditions like diabetes are predisposing factors for fungal infections. Let's see how to treat them.
  • While treating fungal infections, you need to stop the use of corticosteroids or antibiotics and control your diabetes.
  • Treating the weakened immune system is important in order for the antifungal treatment to work effectively.
  • Skin fungal infections are treated with antifungal creams and medications. The infected area should be kept dry and clean, and scratching should be avoided.
  • Use of mild hydrocortisone cream may prove beneficial to relieve itching.
  • New broad-spectrum antifungal medication recommended for treating skin fungal infections are terbinafine, itraconazole and fluconazole.
  • Vinegar bath is an effective and popular home remedy for keeping fungal infections of the skin from spreading further. This involves soaking in tub filled with warm water to which about a cup of either apple cider vinegar or standard white vinegar has been added. This remedy is especially beneficial for candida infections.
Medication and other therapy regimens are selected on the basis of the type and extent of the infection. If the fungal infection progresses into a bacterial infection, then antibiotics are recommended. However, before you opt for any kind of fungus treatment option, it is necessary to seek your doctor's advice.

Prevention of Skin Fungus

You may adopt some preventive measures to decrease the risk of fungal skin infections.
  • Keep your skin dry and clean.
  • Wearing loose-fitting clothes is preferable.
  • Avoid sharing hair brushes, combs and towels as they may contain skin fragments with fungal colonies.
  • To avoid athlete's foot, you should use alternate shoes every two or three days.
  • Choose natural fibers like cotton, which allows the skin to breathe, for clothes.
  • Diabetic people should control their blood sugar levels.
As you can see, there are simple things that you can do to take good care of your skin and protect it from fungal infections. If you notice any signs of an infection, immediately consult your doctor in order to seek the appropriate treatment. 
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