Fungal infections are common skin conditions in which a fungus has taken hold, grown, and proliferated, causing unpleasant symptoms in the skin. While fungal infections can appear anywhere on the body, they most often develop in moist, warm areas such as the feet, armpits, and groin area. They are not usually serious, but treatment is recommended to help avoid spreading the infection.
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Symptoms of fungal infections include:
These symptoms are typically found in moist, warm areas of the body.
Common Types of Fungal Infections
- Athlete’s Foot: A fungal infection that usually starts between toes of the feet. It appears as a red, itchy, scaling rash and is common in individuals whose feet become sweaty in tightfitting shoes. It is contagious and can spread via clothing, towels, and floors. Touching or picking at the infection can cause it to spread to the hand.
- Jock Itch: A fungal infection that affects the genitals, upper thighs, and buttocks. It typically appears as a ring-shaped rash that is itchy and red, and sometimes also blistered, flaky, or scaly. Since it is caused by the same fungus that causes athlete’s foot, it is commonly spread to the groin from the feet via your hands or towel. It is also contagious.
- Ringworm: A fungal infection that appears as a red, itchy, circular rash with clear or scaly skin in the center. It most often forms on the arms, legs, buttocks, or trunk. When ringworm appears on the scalp, it causes bald patches and may lead to severe inflammation, scarring, and even permanent hair loss. It is related to athlete’s foot and jock itch, and it can spread through skin-to-skin contact as well as through clothing, towels, bedding, brushes, and combs.
- Yeast Infections: A fungal infection that causes irritation and intense itching in the vaginal area. It can also cause redness, swelling, soreness, pain, burning, and “cottage cheese” or watery vaginal discharge. Yeast infections occur when the balance of yeast in the vaginal area becomes disrupted.
You are at a higher risk of developing certain fungal infections if you:
- Are a man (athlete’s foot, jock itch, or ringworm)
- Are a woman (yeast infections)
- Are pregnant (yeast infections)
- Take antibiotics (yeast infections)
- Take hormone therapy or contraceptives that increase estrogen levels (yeast infections)
- Have uncontrolled diabetes (yeast infections)
- Have an impaired immune system
- Walk barefoot in public areas, such as locker rooms, swimming pools, saunas, etc. (athlete’s foot)
- Are overweight (especially jock itch)
- Live in a warm climate
- Have close contact or share clothing, linens, or shoes with an infected person
- Participate in sports with skin-to-skin contact
- Wear tightfitting shoes or clothes
- Stay in damp socks, exercise clothes, or swimwear for prolonged periods of time
- Wear looser fitted underwear with a cotton crotch line
Prevention and Treatment
Prevention tips include the following:
- Keep your feet, armpits, and groin area dry
- Change socks and underwear daily, or more frequently if they have become particularly sweaty
- Wear well-ventilated shoes, and alternate shoes each day to ensure they dry fully between wears
- Avoid going barefoot in public areas
- Don’t share shoes, towels, hairbrushes, or other personal items
- Wash your body and hair regularly, especially after haircuts
Treatment for fungal infections includes topical antifungal medications, medicated shampoos, and oral medications. While fungal infections are not usually serious, they are contagious and can recur. Treatment is recommended to avoid spreading the condition and to improve your quality of life.