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Overview of Fungal Infection

Dr. Mercy Paul Andrews, bust some facts on fungal infection with regards to its types, treatment, symptoms & risk factors

Published: Feb 22, 2021 12:35:54 PM IST
Updated: Feb 24, 2021 04:42:17 PM IST

Overview of Fungal Infection
What is fungal infection?  

Fungal infection, also known as a mycosis, refers to the invasion of a host's tissue by specific types of fungi. Mycoses often start in the lungs following inhalation of fungal spores or on the skin due to localized colonization.       

Types of Fungal Infections:

Superficial fungal infections

These affect the outer layers of the skin, the nails and hair. The main groups of fungi causing superficial fungal infections are:

  • Dermatophytes (tinea)
  • Yeasts: Candida, including non-albicans candida species, Malassezia, Piedra
  • Moulds. 
Subcutaneous fungal infections

These involve the deeper layers of the skin (the dermis, subcutaneous tissue and even bone). The causative organisms live in the soil on rotting vegetation. They can get pricked into the skin as a result of an injury but usually stay localised at the site of implantation. Deeper skin infections include:

  • Mycetoma
  • Chromoblastomycosis.
Systemic fungal infections

Systemic mycoses may result from breathing in the spores of fungi, which live in the soil or rotting vegetation, or present as an opportunistic disease in immunocompromised individuals.     

Inhaled fungal infection

Although uncommon, some may infect healthy individuals. The result is most often a mild infection and long-lasting resistance to further attack, but occasionally these infections are more severe and chronic (especially in the immune suppressed). The organisms causing systemic fungal infections include:

  • Histoplasmosis
  • Coccidioidomycosis 

Issued in Public Interest by Oaknet Healthcare

What are the symptoms of fungal infection?   

Symptoms of fungal infections differ depending on the type and severity of the infection, the area of the body affected, and individual factors.    

Symptoms of athlete’s foot include:

  • Itching of the feet
  • Scaling and flaking of the skin of the feet 
Symptoms of jock itch most often occur in men and include:

  • Itching of the groin area
  • Red, scaly rash in the groin area  
Symptoms of ringworm include:

  • Red, itchy area on the scalp, often in the shape of a ring
  • Hair loss in the affected area   
Symptoms of fungal infections that affect the mouth (oral thrush) include:

  • Lesions or sores that are raised, are yellow-white in color, and appear in patches in the mouth or throat and/or on the tongue
  • Sore, bleeding gums
  • Patches or lesions that become sore, raw and painful, making it difficult to eat or swallow   
Symptoms of fungal infections that affect the vagina (vaginal thrush) include:

  • Thick, white vaginal discharge that has a texture similar to cottage cheese
  • Vaginal irritation
  • Vaginal itching
  • Burning with urination     
Symptoms of fungal infections that affect the digestive tract (fungal gastroenteritis) include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty swallowing (esophagus)
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting   
How are fungal infections treated?   

Treatment of fungal infections begins with seeking regular medical care. Regular medical care allows your health care professional to assess risks of developing fungal infections and promptly order diagnostic testing for fungal infections and underlying conditions as needed. These measures greatly increase the chances of diagnosing and treating underlying causes of fungal infections in their earliest stages.  

Fungal infection treatment includes:

  • Antiseptic mouth washes for oral thrush
  • Diagnosing and treating any underlying diseases, such as HIV/AIDS and diabetes. Treating the high blood sugar levels of diabetes may resolve a current infection and is critical to minimizing the risk of developing recurrent fungal infections.
  • Eating yogurt or taking acidophilus supplements, which can help to correct the abnormal balance of microorganisms in the mouth and digestive tract
  • Medications, including prescription topical or oral antifungal medications such as fluconazole
What are the risk factors for fungal infections?   

A number of factors increase the risk of developing fungal infections. These factors include:

  • Being very young or very old
  • Douching or using feminine deodorants or scented tampons
  • Exposures to contaminated surfaces especially shower facilities, swimming pools, hot tubs/spas.
  • Having diabetes
  • Having a weakened immune system due to such conditions as HIV/AIDS, or taking steroid medications or chemotherapy
  • Organ transplant recipient
  • Poor personal hygiene
  • Taking strong antibiotics, especially for long periods of time
  • Wearing tight-fitting underwear, thongs, jeans, or other pants if you are a female
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