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Education Library: Fungus Skin Infection - Tinea

Introduction

Fungus is a microorganism that naturally grows in almost all of our surroundings. Fungus thrives in warm moist areas, such as damp floors, bathrooms, or clothing. Skin infections can develop from contact with fungus. There are several types of fungal skin infections (Tinea) and some of the more common ones include jock itch, athlete’s foot, and ringworm. Symptoms, such as skin irritation and itching can be relieved with a variety of non-prescription and prescription products. However, fungal skin infections tend to recur even if they are successfully treated.

Anatomy

Your skin is composed of several layers of tissue and covers your body to protect it from the environment. Certain warm or moist areas of the body, such as the feet, toes, toenails, armpits, and groin are especially susceptible to fungal infections.

Causes

Fungal skin infections result from direct contact with fungus. Fungus prefers warm moist areas making gym locker rooms, sweaty workout clothes, and shoes popular places for fungus to grow. Ringworm may be spread by contact with an animal, most frequently cats.

Symptoms

Fungal skin infections cause irritated itchy red skin. Symptoms can vary depending on the type and location of the infection. For example, athlete’s foot can cause the skin between the toes to blister, turn white, scale, or peel. Scalp ringworm can cause scaling and hair loss.

Diagnosis

Your doctor can diagnose a fungal infection by examining your skin. A skin culture or biopsy may be taken to confirm the diagnosis.

Treatment

Fungal infections are treated with a variety of prescription and nonprescription powders, lotions, and creams. Your doctor will recommend the most appropriate products for you. It can help to keep affected areas clean and dry.

Prevention

You may help prevent fungal infections by:

  • Keeping your skin clean and dry.
  • Change out of wet work out clothes or swimwear as soon as possible.
  • Do not walk barefoot in locker rooms or gym showers.
  • Wear cotton socks and sandals or shoes that allow your feet to "breathe."
  • Keep your nails trimmed and clean.

Am I at Risk?

Some people may have an inherited tendency towards developing fungus infections. People that walk barefoot, wear damp clothing, or wear plastic or leather shoes are at risk for fungal skin infections.

Complications

Subsequent bacterial infections can develop in untreated fungal infections.

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