What is a Fungal Infection?
Fungus exists in the air, in soil, on plants and in water, only half of all types of fungi can be harmful. Fungal spores are tiny and can be inhaled or land on your skin, causing a fungal infection.
There are numerous types of fungal infections based on the affected area of the body. There are 3 common types;
Nail infections Nail infections usually affect the toenails, but can appear on finger nails too. It develops slowly, causing deterioration, thickening and distortion of the nail.
Athlete's Foot It is a rash caused by fungus, usually between the toes, feeding on dead skin cells. It should be treated at the earliest as it is fast spreading to other parts of the body as well as other people.
Ringworm A common fungal infection that causes ring-like rashes on the skin, usually affecting the arms and legs, but can appear anywhere. While it is not serious, it is highly contagious.
You are more likely to get a fungal infection if you have a weakened immune system.
Symptoms present differently, depending on the type of infection and where it is located on the body.
Nail infection A fungal nail infection doesn't usually result in any symptoms at first. Progressively the nail becomes thick and hurts when pressed on the inside of a shoe. Eventually it results in discolouration and distortion, the nail begins to crumble and pieces break off and the skin nearby might also start to crack.
Athlete's Foot Athlete's foot, affecting the skin between the toes or on the bottom of the feet result in dry, white, scaly and cracked skin. The skin area can be itchy and sore, covered in small blisters.
Ringworm Ringworms result in ring-like red or silvery rashes. It causes the skin around the affected area to become scaly, itchy and inflamed. In severe cases, rings may multiply and grow bigger, and also cause blisters and pus-filled sores around the rings.
Fungal infections are caused by a particular type of fungi called dermatophytes that live off keratin tissue found on skin, hair and nails. They thrive in warm, dark and moist places. Fungal infections spread through human contact with another human, animal, object or soil.
There are certain risk factors associated with fungal infections, whereby you are more likely to contract an infection if you;
- Are very young or old
- Are of African-Caribbean origin
- Don't keep your feet clean and dry
- Wear shoes that cause your feet to sweat
- Walk around barefoot in places where fungal infections can spread easily, such as communal showers
- Share towels, socks and shoes with others
- Have a weakened immune system
- Have other health conditions such as Diabetes
- Have had fungal infection in the past
- Are undergoing treatment such as chemotherapy
Fungal infections are usually easy to diagnose from their appearance.
Nail fungal infections can be confused with similar looking conditions, for example psoriasis, and therefore your GP might need to take a piece of the affected nail and send it for examination to confirm the diagnosis.
Further tests might be required if the symptoms are severe are don't respond to antifungal medications.
Most times fungal infections don't require treatment, they get better on their own with time. However more severe cases might need treatment, or you might want to get rid of the discoloured and distorted appearance of your nails.
We prescribe antifungal treatments such as Trimovate and Daktacort, that aim to stop the fungus from spreading, remove the fungus to the extent possible and reduce swelling, returning the skin to normal.